World-first 3D colour hand-and-wrist scanner sent to trial

November 23, 2020
 wrist bone fractures

New Zealand-based Mars Bioimaging Ltd. (MBI) has introduced a new, high-resolution CT scanner that creates striking three dimensional (3D) images in colour instead of flat black-and-white. The 3D scanner can diagnose hand or wrist bone fractures and monitor healing, and is set to be used in a larger international trial.

MBI’s new technology is built around a chip called the Medipix3, developed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN): it tracks and processes how X-rays interact with different tissues in the body; and can determine the density and composition of those tissues more accurately. The scanner then runs the data through specialised algorithms to turn it into a 3D model; specific densities are assigned different colours, so that bones appear white, muscle appears red, fat appears yellow, and implants can be blue or green. It is even sensitive enough to pick up blood vessels, without the patient requiring the usual injections of contrast agents.

MBI’s new technology

MBI produced the first images of the human body with the Medipix3 chip in 2018. Now, the 3D images produced allow doctors to diagnose bone breaks or fractures, and more precisely monitor how they’re healing over time.

For its first feasibility study, doctors and researchers scanned the wrists of three patients with fractures in their scaphoids, a small bone that’s often broken if someone falls onto an outstretched hand. These patients also had the scan a few months after their injury and diagnosis, to monitor how well it was healing – the 3D scanner was able to pick up signs that the fractured scaphoid hadn’t closed back up, as well as complications such as sclerosis, displacement, and small bony fragments.

According to Anthony Butler, Chief Medical Officer of MBI, the machine is hospital-ready. The compact machine is officially called the Mars Microlab 5X120, and stands about a metre tall with a hole in the middle big enough to stick an arm into.

“We chose to target the important clinical problem of wrist injuries because they are common and diagnosis can be challenging, with frequent misdiagnosis and complications such as bones not healing properly,” Butler said. “[This] scanner’s ability to measure and display bone composition makes it far easier to monitor post-surgical healing. It can also focus on the optimal energy spectrum to reduce image distortion caused by metal implants and better assess bone healing and fusion.”

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Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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