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VirtualDose, a New Software to Reduce Radiation Exposure from CT and X-Rays

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Digital radiography news A new $1.2 million study is seeking to develop a new software, VirtualDose, for calculating and tracking a patient's radiation exposure from diagnostic X-rays & CT scans. The study is funded by the U.S. Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and conducted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The software aims to arm radiologists, medical physicists, and patients with more accurate data for making informed decisions about the potential risks and benefits of CT scan procedures.

According to project leader Rensselaer Professor X. George Xu, the U.S. population is now exposed to seven times more radiation every year from medical imaging exams than it was in 1980. Professor Xu is a nuclear engineering professor in the Department of Mechanical Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer. "Radiation exposure from imaging procedures such as CT scans has elevated to an alarming level in the United States and elsewhere in recent years. The radiation exposure from a single CT scan is still relatively small when compared with the clinical benefit of the procedure, but patients often receive multiple scans during the course of their diagnostic or therapeutic procedure. Our new software should help to record the exposures more accurately and more consistently," Professor Xu explains.

Various US and international organizations have been calling for a "dose registry" system, especially after a recent report has been issued by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), of which Xu is a member, alarming against the vast increase in radiation exposure.

 Professor Xu and his team are considering several criteria while developing the new software such as age, sex, pregnancy, height, and weight. By entering these data into the software, the program creates a virtual 3-D "phantom" anatomically matching with the patient's internal organs, and detail how radiation interacts with each organ. The phantom, in turn, allows physicians and researchers to compare the levels of radiation exposure a patient gets from different CT scanning protocols or different scanner designs.


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