RSNA, ACR, AAPM Join Forces in COVID-19 Image Database for AI

August 6, 2020

Medical imaging and data center will support development of artificial intelligence and medical advancements during the pandemic.

Three of the nation’s leading medical imaging organizations announced Wednesday that they are joining forces to create a new Medical Imaging and Data Resource Center (MIDRC) to support efforts to better understand, diagnose, monitor, and treat patients with COVID-19.

Together, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), the American College of Radiology (ACR), and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) will work – with funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) – to create an open-source database with medical images from tens of thousands of patients who have tested positive for the virus. MIDRC will be hosted through the University of Chicago via a contract with Maryellen Giger, Ph.D., NIBIB MIDRC principal investigator and chair of the AAPM Data Science Committee.

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“The MIDRC database will provide a critical tool to help the medical imaging community, doctors, and scientist better understand COVID-19 and its biological effects on humans,” said Etta Pisano, M.D., ACR chief research officer. “This knowledge, and the technological advancements the registry can enable, will ultimately help providers save lives.”

Medical imaging has been invaluable during the pandemic in helping providers detect, diagnose, and manage the disease, but artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms could help radiologists more effectively triage and interpret scans. The MIDRC is designed to collect and annotate the thousands of images needed to train these algorithms, giving engineers, physicians, and scientists the opportunity to analyze and organize the data in ways that can help answer critical questions.

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According to the three-institution team, the MIDRC will include more than 10,000 chest CT scans and X-ray images from COVID-19-positive patients. Many images will be culled from the ACR COVID-19 Imaging Research Registry and the RSNA International COVID-19 Open Radiology Database (RICORD), and researchers worldwide will have access to them to answer clinical and logistical questions.

“Access to this unprecedented resource will soon fuel expedited AI research to provide better diagnosis, new treatments and more effective monitoring to guard against COVID-19 resurgence,” Giger said. “This is a significant step in the effort against COVID-19.”

MIDRC will include five infrastructure development projects, will oversee 12 research projects, and will include roughly 20 university labs. The focus will initially be on COVID-19, but the coordinators said it will eventually expand to work against other diseases.