Xbox gaming technology may improve X-ray precision
09 December 2015
With the aim of producing high-quality X-rays with minimal radiation exposure, particularly in children, researchers have developed a new approach.
Surprisingly, the new technology is neither high-tech nor expensive; rather, it is based on the Xbox gaming system.
Using proprietary software developed for the Microsoft Kinect system, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis have adapted hands-free technology used for the popular Xbox system to aid radiographers when taking X-rays.
The software coupled with the Kinect system can measure thickness of body parts and check for motion, positioning and the X-ray field of view immediately before imaging, says Dr Steven Don, associate professor of radiology at the university’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology. Real-time monitoring alerts technologists to factors that could compromise image quality. For example, movement during an X-ray requires retakes, thereby increasing radiation exposure.
“The goal is to produce high-quality X-ray images at a low radiation dose without repeating images,” says Don. “It sounds surprising to say that the Xbox gaming system could help us to improve medical imaging, but our study suggests that this is possible.”
The technology could benefit all patients but particularly children because of their sensitivity to radiation and greater variation in body sizes, which can range from premature infants to adult-sized teenagers. Setting appropriate X-ray techniques to minimize radiation exposure depends on the thickness of the body part being imaged. High-quality X-rays are critical in determining diagnoses and treatment plans.
“To achieve the best image quality while minimising radiation exposure, X-ray technique needs to be based on body-part thickness,” says Don. The gaming software has an infrared sensor to measure body-part thickness automatically without patient contact. An optical camera is also used to confirm the patient's proper position.
While further research and development are needed, the eventual goal is to apply the technology to new X-ray machines as well as retrofitting older equipment.