The flat greyscale imagery of X-ray technology now assumes color and a third dimension with a compact scanner developed specifically for hand and wrist imaging by New Zealand-based Mars Bioimaging (MBI). The system developed with Medipix3 detector chips engineered at CERN, Switzerland, generates high resolution, cutaway 3D models that can aid in the diagnosis of bone fractures and monitor healing.

A feasibility study with orthopedic patients, which will be followed by clinical trials in 2021, confirmed that the images obtained with the new scanner document the status of metal implants and can visualize blood vessels without the use of contrast agents. Compared to existing technologies, images of such precision would allow The 3D color wrist X-ray shows a metallic screw (blue) and K-wire (green). Source: MBIThe 3D color wrist X-ray shows a metallic screw (blue) and K-wire (green). Source: MBIsignificant advances in fracture diagnostics and post-surgical healing assessment.

Data collected by the scanner is processed with specialized algorithms to generate a 3D model. Specific densities are assigned different colors, so that bones appear white, muscle appears red and implants can be blue or green. During the feasibility trial, the images revealed failure of fractured scaphoid bones to heal and provided evidence of complications such as sclerosis, displacement and small bony fragments.

MBI plans to release compact scanners within one year to enable small clinics to reduce delays and costs for healthcare providers and improve patient outcomes. Originally used in particle physics detectors, the Medipix3 detector chips are now being used in medical applications and for art authentication. Their precise particle imaging and detection abilities allow them to obtain high-definition images of the density and composition of human tissues.

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