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ScienceShot: Medical Imaging, In A Snap

19 February 2012 9:23 pm
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Michael Lustig, Shreyas Vasanawala, Marcus Alley

VANCOUVER, CANADA—Doctors struggle to keep squirming children still for long scans. Now, thanks to faster magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), they may no longer have to worry about keeping their patients still for so long. The above image of the blood flow through the heart of a 6-year-old with a congenital heart defect was acquired in 10 minutes rather than an hour, as with traditional MRI. To take faster images, researchers use algorithms similar to JPEG compression, they reported here today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW). So-called compressed sensing MRIs offer a quicker way to snap pictures of soft tissues in time and space. Instead of capturing all data points, this technique records data randomly, drawing a sparse image. The incomplete pictures are filled in after the scan by algorithms that reveal the simplest solution for each pixel. While researchers are still perfecting this quick scanning method, a handful of clinics are already using it to slash scan times.

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