Safer x-rays for use with children developed

1 min read

European photonics scientists have developed a new ‘autocorrect’ image processing algorithm that is able to reduce X-ray scatter, which means that children will now be able to receive safer, high contrast, low dose X-rays.

Clinicians will now be able to take a low radiation, digital X-ray image - without the need for an anti-scatter grid - thanks to this new ‘scattering suppression software’.

Developed by photonics scientists at WUT, working in collaboration with innovation incubator ACTPHAST 4.0 and medical imaging company Italray SRL, the algorithm ‘auto corrects’ unclear, low dose digital X-rays to generate a higher-contrast image, meaning young children can receive safer scans.

When having an X-ray or CT scan, beams enter the body and ricochet around inside – or become ‘scattered’.

Given that the scatter signal interferes with the primary contrast of the patient’s physical features such as bones or organs, this scattering process creates ‘noise’ and leads to a loss in image quality - making resulting X-rays appear blurred.

The scatter, however can be counteracted with an ‘anti scatter grid’ – a metal plate made of lead strips to encourage parallel beams - improving the image contrast. But, this grid normally requires a higher dose of X-rays, and can therefore be dangerous to small children.

X-rays can emit harmful ionizing radiation - high-energy particles that penetrate tissue to reveal internal organs and bone structures – which can damage DNA. While scientists have often sought to reduce this ionizing radiation, traditionally it has come at the expense of the type of detector and image resolution.

The photonics scientists involved in the project have been able to address the image quality problem as a result of scatter from the perspective of the acquired data and the digital image processing.

Dr. Wojciech Krauze, project manager for the collaboration explains: “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.