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Xbox Kinect technology helps create higher-quality X-rays

Tue 1 Dec 2015

A team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, has adapted a gaming system to help radiographers [PDF] improve the quality of X-rays.

The technology, originally developed for Microsoft Kinect, has been amended to provide a useful tool for measuring the thickness of body parts and monitor movement and positioning in the X-ray field of vision before imaging.

Deciding on appropriate radiation techniques to minimise radiation exposure depends on the thickness of the body part being captured. Higher-quality images are critical for deciding on the best diagnosis and treatment plan for a patient.

Steven Don, managing director and associate professor of radiology at the university’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, explained that this real-time capability helps radiographers to identify factors which could hamper the quality of the final X-ray image. He describes for example that “movement during an X-ray requires retakes, thereby increasing radiation exposure.”

Don added that the goal of the technology is to aid in the production of high-quality X-rays at low radiation, without the need to repeat the image. He admitted that the Xbox gaming solution was a surprising approach, but assured that the study and surrounding research had suggested that it is a feasible improvement tool for medical imaging.

Although the technology is expected to benefit all patients, the researchers believe it could be particularly practical for use in children – who are much more sensitive to radiation and vary in body size, from premature babies to teens.

Steel callipers are typically used to measure body-part thickness before taking X-rays, but this method can be “time-consuming, intrusive and sometimes frightening to young children,” said Don.

The enhanced software uses infra-red sensors to measure body-part thickness automatically, and without coming into contact with the patient. “Additionally, we use the optical camera to confirm the patient is properly positioned,” Don explained.

The Kinect technology was originally developed as a motion sensor and a voice and facial recognition system for the Xbox, allowing players to play hands-free. However, several non-gaming applications have been trialled in scientific and commercial spheres.

In healthcare, pilot programmes have introduced Kinect to help with patients’ rehabilitation following trauma. The Kinect software development kit (SDK) has been used to develop the Stroke Recovery system, which aids the improvement of limb motor functioning in patients, assessing progress and adjusting difficulty accordingly.

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