The Centre for Medical Image Computing at University College London (UCL), United Kingdom, has won a grant from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to apply commercially produced graphics cards for computer games to enhance medical imaging techniques.
Driven by the computer gaming industry, graphics cards now provide huge processing power at low cost, all housed within a personal computer. UCL aims to use this technology to provide hospitals with new diagnostic capabilities.
The researchers believe the technology can be applied in a number of areas. For example, in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the computer algorithms used currently to identify changes in the brain can take hours to run. In contrast, UCL aims to use multi-core CPUs and graphics cards to process data in a few minutes, providing rapid feedback for clinical decisions.
The technology can also be used to train surgeons in complex procedures such as heart surgery. Currently, surgeons go from the classroom to observing and assisting more experienced professionals with real operations. Technology from UCL and its collaborators will add another layer to the learning process, enabling surgeons to have training using electronic simulations, similar to those used to train pilots, before they take to the operating table.
In minimally invasive procedures on the heart, graphics cards offer the potential to be able to run fast sequences on MRI imaging equipment that will enable the surgeon to visualise tissue in 3D, without the need for large doses of X-rays.
Researcher David Atkinson, said, “New developments in commercial graphics cards, which retail at just a few hundred pounds, can make medical imaging cheaper and faster. We will be investigating all the ways multi-core CPUs and graphics cards can be used to advance diagnosis and treatment.”