Posted by: Dissol on Feb 04, 2011
I guess being stuck in medical places, has turned my mind to some of the incredible advances in medical science. The digital age has produced some incredible advances, but these are combined with some associated problems.
Data. In particular medical data. Modern medical practices, and techniques have given us the ability to really collect a huge amount of information. But almost too much information. Medical science, & IT, have had to come up with some incredible advances with how they will sift through the data, to find the useful bits.
Take a simple CT scan. A "Cat Scan", and the associated MRI scanners. Basically these are machines that have a rotating xray camera which can virtually slice through the body, in real time, to show the different internals. It only takes about 30 seconds for a human to pass through the machine. But the increasing detail that these machines can show means that there is a massive amount of data for the medicos to deal with.
When these machines 1st came out, they would take around 100 slices through the body, which corresponds to 50MB of data. These days the machines are much quicker & work to a higher resolution. So the same procedure gives 24,000 slices, which equates to 20GB of data. But now, also increasingly they are using these machines over a time period, to be able to see things such as heart defects or blood flow through the brain. The same imaging spread over 5 seconds would produce 1TB of data. One patient, one data set.
So the medicos can no longer look through individual xrays...sorting through 24,000 (or more!!) pictures to find the specific data they want. Amazingly, the answer has come from video games! The modern computer games which our children & OS love to play, require increasingly more advanced computer graphics. Using these graphic cards, the medicos can manipulate the data, and just look at the specific items they want to.
One breakthrough has been in virtual autopsies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bws6vWM1v6g Imagine a large iPhone laid out as a table. The images from the CT scan of the dead body is then displayed on this table. Using the same techniques to move, enlarge, rotate, the operator can look through the dead body, to find the cause of death. This is so much neater, and easier, than dissecting a dead body, anyone who tried dissecting frogs in Biology lessons at school will know what a messy business that can be!!!
But OK, this is pretty depressing...I mean autopsies happen too late. What are the implications for the living? Well, this is where things are getting exciting. They are linking this work, with haptic touch, and functional MRI's. So, for example a person with a heart condition (and this is close to home as my own father had a massive heart attack this week), can have an MRI taken, over some seconds. This then will enable the medicos to build up a fully functioning 3D picture of the heart. The heart specialist can see the heart beating. But then using a small rod, he can press on the rod, and (again, using gaming technology) he can virtually "feel" the heart beating against the rod. If he presses harder he can (virtually) push the rod through the wall of the heart, and see, and feel each valve opening. He can "feel" for constrictions, or thickening in the blood vessels, or detect a faulty valve, before even actually going into theatre. He can measure, precisely the size, and diameter of particular arteries, and see them in operation, so he can better decide what surgery is needed, and precisely the size of any replacements.
Amazing medical science...and all because of the breakthroughs in gaming consoles, and graphics cards… So do your bit, and encourage your children to play more games!!!