Kinect measures body thickness to lessen radiation exposure from X-rays

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Blurred X-ray images such as this one, which result in retakes and more exposure to radiation, is something the researchers are hoping to avoid(Credit: Steven Don/Washington University)

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The depth-sensing capabilities of the Microsoft's Kinect has seen it put to use in a number of unexpected applications, such as helping Parkinson's sufferers to walk and the visually impaired to practice yoga. Scientists now claim to have expanded the applications for the gaming technology to include a more precise approach to X-ray imaging, which they say can limit exposure to radiation by measuring the thickness of a subject's body parts.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) have developed proprietary software for the Kinect system that pairs with the optical camera and infrared sensor to gauge the thickness of body parts, and in effect determine the correct exposure to radiation. The system is also capable of detecting patient motion and positioning and the field of view prior to imaging.

The thinking is that this can help radiologists ensure the subject is properly in shot while real-time monitoring can alert them to movements during the imaging process, all with a view to avoiding retakes and unnecessary radiation exposure.

"The goal is to produce high-quality X-ray images at a low radiation dose without repeating images," says Steven Don associate professor of radiology at WUSTL. "It sounds surprising to say that the Xbox gaming system could help us to improve medical imaging, but our study suggests that this is possible."

While more efficient X-ray techniques stand to benefit patients of all ages, the team says it could prove particularly beneficial when treating children. Difference in body sizes from toddlers to teenagers, not to mention a heightened sensitivity to radiation, highlight the potential benefits of the new technology.

The team has carried out a feasibility study and is now turning its attention to further development, saying the ultimate objective is to equip new X-ray machines with the system, along with retrofitting older machines.

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