Image processing algorithm makes X-rays safer for children

Children can receive safer, high contrast, low dose X-rays thanks to an ‘autocorrect’ image processing algorithm developed by European researchers.

X-rays
Image by Dr. Manuel González Reyes from Pixabay

Developed by photonics scientists at Warsaw University of Technology (WUT), working in collaboration with innovation incubator ACTPHAST 4.0 and medical imaging company Italray SRL, the new algorithm ‘auto corrects’ unclear, low dose digital X-rays to generate a higher-contrast image.

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When having an X-ray or CT scan, beams enter the body and become ‘scattered’ as they ricochet around inside. This scattering process creates ‘noise’ and leads to a loss in image quality, which can make X-rays appear blurred.

The scatter can be counteracted with an anti-scatter grid, a metal plate made of lead strips to encourage parallel beams that improve the image contrast. The grid normally requires a higher dose of X-rays and can be dangerous to small children. Furthermore, X-rays can emit ionising radiation, which scientists have sought to reduce at the expense of image resolution.

Dr Wojciech Krauze, project manager for the collaboration said: “The partnership between ACTPHAST 4.0, Italray and WUT has looked at ways to reduce the amount of ‘noise’ – or the removal of errors – in final images.

“It works by minimising the scattering process by taking the original image and estimation of the scatter signal. By partially ‘reversing’ the scatter our digital image processing algorithm is able to reduce the amount of noise signal, essentially ‘autocorrecting’ the blurred image.

“The method is very fast: a physician taking the x-ray image of a patient obtains the corrected ‘denoised’ version instantly.”

“The result is a ‘scatter grid quality’ image without the need for an actual anti-scatter grid,” Dr Krauze said.

As an SME incubator that helps existing and fledgeling businesses with partnerships, ACTPHAST 4.0 provided the expertise in photonics to Italray.

Peter Doyle, ACTPHAST’s central outreach coordinator, said: Many SMEs today do not have access to experts in the technical aspects of innovating with photonics. ACTPHAST made the difference in terms of access to photonics technical capabilities and expertise from within our network. We were able to help with the development of software which needed deep photonics expertise.”