Researchers believe video graphics cards can reduce CT radiation exposure

Researchers at Troy, N.Y.-based Rensselaer Polytechnic University are investigating how they can use the power of video graphics cards to reduce radiation exposure from X-rays and CT scans.

The RPI research team, led by George Xu, a professor of biomedical engineering and head of the university's nuclear engineering program, plans to use a $2.6 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to use NVIDIA video cards and parallel processing techniques to reduce radiation dose calculations from 10 hours to less than a minute.

"With this new study, we hope to bring massively parallel computing power--currently available only to national laboratories and major research universities such as Rensselaer--to busy and resource-limited hospitals," Xu said in an announcement. "There is a high level of interest at the national level to quantify and reduce the amount of ionizing radiation involved in medical imaging. Our parallel computing method has the potential to be used in everyday clinical procedures, which would dramatically decrease the amount of radiation we receive from CT scans."

The concern about medical radiation exposure has led to dose-reduction initiatives, such as the establishment of dose registry systems that would track the number of CT scans a patient receives and the radiation dose resulting from that procedure. According to Xu, current software packages used to track CT radiation dose aren't capable of handling these tasks.

Xu has developed software that uses virtual 3-D models, called computational phantoms, to calculate the exact amount of radiation a patient's organ receives from a CT scan, according to a Wall Street Journal article published last December. The problem is that running the program on a typical desktop computer takes about 10 hours to perform the required Monte Carlo calculations (the standard technique for dose calculation in diagnostic radiology), which is much too slow for clinical use.

In this study, Xu and his team will design and test new Monte Carlo simulation software to be run on graphic processing units found in computer graphic cards, rather than running on the central processing units of desktop computers.

Once the team has developed and validated the software, it plans to integrate it with GE LightSpeed CT scanners and a library of computational phantoms in order to estimate radiation doses in less than a minute.

For more:
- read the announcement from RPI
- look at the Wall Street Journal story

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