New Algorithms Make Searches for Medical Images Easier

Advannced algorithms may support
doctors who are looking for a needle
in a digital haystack; © IST Results

The long-term goal of a Danish-led research consortium called “Deep Structure, Singularities, and Computer Vision” (DSSCV) was to contribute to software tools allowing doctors and hospital technicians to quickly search and match X-rays, magnetic resonance images and computed 3D tomography scans, particularly of the craniofacial region.

"Let's say a doctor has a new patient with a broken bone," says coordinator, Mads Nielsen, a professor of computer science at the IT University of Copenhagen. "He remembers seeing a similar fracture and wants to recall how he treated that patient, but doesn't remember the case number. By inputting the X-ray of the new patient, this computer system would allow finding the relevant, digitally stored image of that kind of fracture."

"Anybody that needs to compare or search images for specific features could use the technology," says Nielsen. However, he estimates that practical use will require five to ten more years of development. "A shape is a very complicated thing to describe mathematically," explains Nielsen. "To efficiently compare shapes, you need something that doesn't compare every feature." The researchers refined the practical application of singularity and scale-space theories to develop algorithms that describe the deep structure of a shape, which Nielsen explains as a collection of details, called singularities. Such an algorithm makes it possible to disregard singularities that do not match the particular shape sought. "An analogy would be a stadium full of 20,000 spectators, and you want to find your brother”, he says. "You are not going to look at every wrinkle, eyebrow and strand of hair. You eliminate the details that are irrelevant in order to zoom in on your brother."

Looking ahead, Nielsen says, "We've done the deep mathematics. Now we'd like to do another project with other partners more involved in the practical issues, such as doctors and hospitals."

MEDICA.de; Source: IST Results