Computers faster than humans at sizing up knee images

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

WASHINGTON - Scientists have automated the measurement of a vital part of the knee in images with a software that performs much faster and just as reliably as humans who interpret the same images.

Our ambitious goal is to change the way radiology is practised, said Metin Gurcan, senior study author and assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Ohio State University (OSU).

Right now, radiologists don’t have the tools to make more than crude measurements of most images. So one thing we are doing is providing those tools, Gurcan added.

Having more precise information about wear and tear on this portion of the knee - a blend of fibrous tissue and cartilage called the meniscus - could lead to its use as a biomarker in predicting who is at risk for developing osteoarthritis, researchers say.

The meniscus consists of two C-shaped disks that rest between the thigh and shin bones. It provides cushioning, evens out weight distribution and reduces friction.

Under normal circumstances, radiologists use rulers to measure specific portions of an image. This new programme replaces that method with automated measurements of several magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) slices of the meniscus.

These measurements can then be used to determine the total volume of the structure of the meniscus for comparison over time.

After developing the programme, the scientists found that the automated measurements were either as reliable or more reliable than human measurements of mild to moderate cases of knee degeneration.

More work is needed to make the programme equally strong in measuring severely damaged knees, researchers say.

On a case-by-case basis, manual interpretation takes between seven and 20 minutes, and the computer programme completes its segmentation in two to four minutes.

The scientists say the programme could be revamped to make it work even more rapidly without sacrificing accuracy, said a university release.

The study is slated for publication in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.

Filed under: Medicine, World, arthritis

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