Photonics scientists at Warsaw University of Technology (WUT) have developed a novel image processing algorithm to reduce X-ray scatter, allowing children to receive safer, high-contrast, low-dose X-rays.

The new algorithm autocorrects unclear, low-dose digital X-rays to generate a higher-contrast image, improving scan safety for young children, to whom higher X-ray doses can be dangerous.

During an X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan, beams enter the body and ricochet around inside, becoming ‘scattered’. The scatter signal interferes with the primary contrast of the patient’s physical features such as bones or organs, leading to a blurred X-ray.

The scatter can be counteracted with an anti-scatter grid, a metal plate made of lead strips to encourage the beams to run parallel, improving the image contrast. However, this grid normally requires a higher dose of X-rays.

WUT assistant professor Dr Wojciech Krauze said: “[The algorithm] works by minimising the scattering process by taking the original image and estimation of the scatter signal. By partially ‘reversing’ the scatter our digital image processing algorithm is able to reduce the amount of noise signal, essentially ‘autocorrecting’ the blurred image.

“The method is very fast: a physician taking the X-ray image of a patient obtains the corrected ‘denoised’ version instantly. The result is a ‘scatter grid quality’ image without the need for an actual anti scatter grid.”

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The WUT researchers worked in collaboration with innovation incubator ACTPHAST 4.0 and Florence-based medical imaging company Italray to develop the algorithm.

ACTPHAST Belgium outreach coordinator Peter Doyle said: “ACTPHAST 4.0 links first-time users who would not normally use optics or photonics in their products (as well as those that are already established within the photonics industry) with bespoke prototyping solutions, tailoring their new product innovation to be fit for purpose in the modern digital economy.