Researchers Develop Computer-Based System to Automatically Track Radiation Dose Exposure From CT Scans

NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Project Tracks Patient-Specific Radiation Dose Exposure From CT Scans<br />

May 3, 2010


Researchers have developed a computer-based system that can automatically track radiation dose exposure from computed tomography (CT) scans, improving the ability for doctors and patients to track their cumulative health care–related radiation exposure.

Details on the system, called Valkyrie, were presented today at the annual American Roentgen Ray Society meeting in San Diego, Calif.

"CT scans produce more than 100 times the radiation as a standard X-ray. Over a lifetime, excessive exposure may increase risk for health problems, including cancer," says Dr. George Shih, lead author of the study, assistant professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and a radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "For this reason, it's important to keep track of radiation exposure. The Valkyrie system makes this possible, even with older CT scanners because it does not rely on the DICOM SR Dose Report only available on the newest CT scanners."

Except for the newest generation of CT scanners, older scanners "burn" information onto the CT image making it not readily sharable with clinical information systems. The Valkyrie system uses image processing techniques developed by Cornell computer scientists to automatically extract this radiation information from that CT dose report image.

The fact that Valkyrie works with older CT equipment is important, says Dr. Shih. "This is an immediate solution for almost all hospitals, many of which may not be able to upgrade their CT technology in the short or medium term."

Another unique attribute of the Valkyrie system is its ability to calculate a patient-specific radiation dose based on each patient's size and weight. This calculation, along with age and gender, may provide a more accurate estimate of the risk involved with radiation exposure. "Most CT machines use a dose report based on a standard-sized model (acryllic phantom), but individual exposure may be very different depending on the patient's size," explains Dr. Shih.

During the study, a random selection of 518 CT dose reports was processed by the Valkyrie system. "Our initial tests showed that Valkyrie accurately extracted dose information from 100 percent of CT dose reports," says Dr. Shih.

While the system is functional, it is still in a development phase. Going forward, Dr. Shih and its other developers aim foremost to allow patients to keep a digital log of their care-related radiation dose, while future versions will incorporate quality-control features to ensure CT scans are within established range in order to catch equipment or clinician errors.

Co-authors include Dr. Zheng Feng Lu, associate professor of clinical radiology at Columbia University Medical Center; Dr. Edward Nickoloff, professor of radiology at Columbia University in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, School of Public Health in the Division of Environmental Health and the School of Engineering in the Department of Applied Physics and Mathematics, and a clinical medical physicist at NewYork- Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center; Dr. Ramin Zabih, professor of computer science and radiology, and Devin Kennedy, master's student in computer science, at Cornell University; Dr. Joseph Osborne, assistant professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College and a radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell; Dr. Michael Loftus, radiology resident at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell; and Dr. Wei-Jen Shih, professor of radiology at the University of Kentucky and the Lexington VA Medical Center.

For more information, patients may call 866-NYP-NEWS.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College, the medical school of Cornell University. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, education, research and community service. Weill Cornell physician-scientists have been responsible for many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer; the synthesis of penicillin; the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S.; the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease; the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth; and, most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. Weill Cornell Medical College is the first U.S. medical college to offer a medical degree overseas and maintains a strong global presence in Austria, Brazil, Haiti, Tanzania, Turkey and Qatar. For more information, visit and

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