SNM exhibitors herald software offering more efficient use of scan data

July 18, 2005

Software is the unsung superhero of imaging, reconstructing the equivalent of a tall building in a single bound, racing much faster than a locomotive. Two new algorithms, one from an Israeli company called UltraSPECT, the other from GE Healthcare, are the latest such champions in nuclear medicine. Both promise major time savings or improved image quality.

Software is the unsung superhero of imaging, reconstructing the equivalent of a tall building in a single bound, racing much faster than a locomotive. Two new algorithms, one from an Israeli company called UltraSPECT, the other from GE Healthcare, are the latest such champions in nuclear medicine. Both promise major time savings or improved image quality.

Xpress.cardiac, developed by UltraSPECT and released at the Society of Nuclear Medicine meeting in June, can cut scan times by up to 50%. A 12-minute gated scan, completed using a dual-head gamma camera could be done in as few as six minutes, according to the company, regardless of make or model of the gamma camera.

CEO Shuli C. Shwartz, who helped found the company five years ago.

Xpress.cardiac is priced under $100,000, which Shwartz asserts can be recouped in six to 12 months through additional revenues achieved with greater throughput. UltraSPECT is pushing the increased productivity that can be achieved with the software, but there's an added benefit as well.

"In addition to the reduced acquisition time, we see improved image quality, which is really counterintuitive when you use half the number of photons and still get slightly better images," she said.

Evolution for Bone, also released at the SNM meeting, is designed specifically for GE's Infinia gamma camera and runs on the company's Xeleris functional imaging workstation. It addresses the same challenges faced by UltraSPECT's Xpress.bone postprocessing program, which was released last year: reduce acquisition time and improve resolution.

GE describes the dual aim of its newly minted software as "resolution recovery," an attempt to improve image quality for bone scintigraphy or amplify productivity, achieving up to a 50% reduction in scan time. The SPECT technique may also quicken other types of nuclear medicine studies, including whole-body SPECT/CT, according to the company.

GE has priced the software option at $28,000 for a single-user installation. But Evolution for Bone may be bought as part of a multiuser license agreement, if the software is installed to run on more than one Xeleris workstation at a site.

The users of MR have had such choices for five years in the form of parallel imaging packages developed by various vendors. Radiofrequency coils designed to oversample certain areas provide the data to either increase resolution with a standard scan time or maintain image quality with decreased acquisition time. CT has achieved similar gains through multiple detector arrays and conebeam reconstruction techniques.

UltraSPECT's Xpress family and GE's Evolution for Bone are different, however, in that they require no new hardware to be built into the imaging device. UltraSPECT harnesses a proprietary wide-beam reconstruction (WBR) technology, which optimizes images by accounting for various physical effects, such as scatter, attenuation, and marginal penetration, through the collimator septa. This improves the performance of the gamma camera, reducing the possibility of patient motion artifacts.

With Xpress.cardiac, the protocol is set to acquire data during half the usual period. These data are sent to the UltraSPECT.gate computer, which applies the WBR algorithm. The computer uses off-the-shelf technology and takes up minimal space. It requires neither a keyboard nor a monitor, as there is no human interaction.

"Data flow in, get processed, and flow out," Shwartz said. "This is one of the beauties of our product. There is no guesswork."

The postprocessed data are then sent to the nuclear medicine workstation.

The reconstruction algorithm in Evolution for Bone allows data acquisition for a 3D whole-body SPECT image in the time it typically takes to acquire the data for a whole-body planar image or for a SPECT scan of a single area. This typically cuts the acquisition time to less than 30 minutes.

The operator does not, however, have to choose an abbreviated acquisition time. A standard acquisition might be chosen instead to allow Evolution for Bone to improve the image quality.

"If you have a difficult patient - an elderly patient who can't void correctly, for example - you might be better off doing a full acquisition and running the resolution recovery function," said Ian D. Brown, Americas sales manager for nuclear medicine products at GE Healthcare.

Evolution for Bone, which was developed by scientists at Johns Hopkins in partnership with GE, optimizes the use of data based on the body area and the physical characteristics of the collimator, according to Brown. It is the first such package from GE, but it will not be the last.

"In a few months we hope to have another module in the Evolution series, probably addressing cardiac," he said.