High tech health check

A medical imaging system can help doctors immediately assess the health of injured or transplanted tissue.


Normally, it takes doctors up to three days to determine whether tissue is dying, but new technology developed in Canada can now help them decide a lot quicker.


A medical imaging system developed at the National Research Council (NRC) can help doctors immediately assess the health of injured or transplanted tissue by providing a rapid snapshot of its blood and oxygen levels.


The NRC system consists of an infrared light source and a highly sensitive camera that records reflected light. It measures specific wavelengths – most of them invisible with the naked eye – and through a series of complex mathematical calculations, determines whether injured or transplanted tissue has an adequate blood supply and if the blood is carrying enough oxygen.


‘Our technology is geared for areas of medicine where doctors do visual assessments – such as treatment of wounds, burns, skin lesions or skin transplants,’ said Dr. Michael Sowa, spectroscopy group leader at the NRC Institute for Biodiagnostics in Winnipeg.


‘The technology’s premise is that for tissue to survive, it needs blood and oxygen. If those ingredients are missing, the tissue will not survive a transplant or trauma.’


Calgary-based Kent Imaging, which has licensed the technology, is developing a handheld version of the system, opening the door for widespread clinical use for use in operating rooms, recovery wards and other clinical settings.


‘We believe we can build a system that’s slightly smaller than an 8.5 x 11 inch page,’ said Donald Chapman, the firm’s chief executive officer. ‘It would include an LCD panel on the back to give physicians a large-scale picture of what they’re looking at.’


Kent Imaging hopes to start commercialising the system in 2008.