Software could boost arthritis research and treatment, by outlining bones in x-rays

An x-ray displaying BoneFinder-enhanced hip bones

Despite what cartoons may have us believe, x-rays don't always show bones as being sharply defined from the surrounding tissue. It's often difficult to tell where the one ends and the other begins, requiring clinicians to go through the images and manually draw in the outlines of bones. Now, however, free software known as BoneFinder is able to do so automatically.

BoneFinder was developed at the University of Manchester, and is already in use by arthritis research groups in the UK and US. In its present form, it's only able to identify hip bones, drawing a line of 65 points along the contour of each one. It was "trained" to so using a database of 1,105 pelvic radiographs.

In a just-announced three-year project funded by Britain's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, however, the software is being adapted to identify other bones, including those of the knee and hand.

It is hoped that the new-and-improved BoneFinder will help make up for the current shortage of radiographers in the UK, allowing physicians and researchers to spend less time manually enhancing x-rays, and more time "drawing conclusions and developing treatments."

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