Medical imaging technology has led to quicker diagnoses of conditions that, when caught early, can be treated. However, because such devices are large, they are impractical in the limited area of a space vehicle. An on-going NASA project to address the issue involves image fusion, where in-orbit ultrasounds would be combined with previously done Earth-bound scans that are more informative. Dr. Richard Boyle is the principal investigator.
NASA Tech Briefs: What is image fusion?
Dr. Richard Boyle: In the simplest terms, image fusion is the combining of images of the same subject from different modalities, from CT scans to MRIs. This produces a coherent 3D image that has multi-dimensional information that should be superior to any of the constituent images alone. It adds function to the structure. You take an image and your X, Y, and Z coordinates, and anything beyond that becomes multi-dimensional. You can have different kinetics of the tissue. You can put those all together, and you have a very enhanced image where function is merged onto structure.
NTB: How is the image fusion process done?
Dr. Boyle: You start with acquiring the images. The subject is placed in an imaging device. You acquire the image, process that image, and then segment out different structures from each other. Then the process goes into registering the different types of images from each modality, and you start fusing them together. You then do the normal types of computer rendering to visualize the image. The next step, especially for the physician, would be to view make measurements, to see if something is abnormally large or small. This helps in interpreting any pathology that might exist.