Medical imaging plays a vital role in orthopaedic and sports medicine for diagnosis, treatment, and postoperative evaluation of injury and disease. The objectives of the SPRI Imaging Research department are to:
- Develop orthopaedic and sports medicine imaging protocols for diagnosis and treatment evaluation
- Apply cutting-edge imaging techniques to musculoskeletal-specific applications
- Advance a better understanding of the relationship between non-invasive quantitative imaging measurements and pathology
- Publish findings in peer-reviewed imaging journals with high impact factors and strong clinical readership
Since 2008, Imaging Research has worked alongside the other SPRI departments to evaluate and develop diagnosis and treatment techniques with direct clinical impact. All clinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in the Steadman Clinic are incorporated into the SPRI clinical data registry, providing a vast dataset for clinical studies. In addition, study-specific imaging is performed on asymptomatic volunteers and cadaver specimens as appropriate to optimize MRI protocols before they are used for clinical scans.
Imaging Research has also developed strong collaborative relationships with industry partners to facilitate the translation from research to clinical practice. This includes Siemens Medical Solutions USA and Siemens Healthineers in Germany, in which new MRI protocols are developed and validated in conjunction with SPRI. For complex image processing tasks the Imaging Research department collaborates with the talented medical imaging team at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and University of Queensland in Australia.
As part of the Institute’s strategic alliance and research collaboration with Siemens Medical Solutions USA, SPRI has upgraded its previous Verio 3.0 Tesla (T) MRI technology with the Siemens flagship clinical Skyra-fit 3.0 T MRI system. This technology provides the researchers at SPRI, as well as the doctors and patients at The Steadman Clinic better access to advanced medical imaging, including quieter scan options, improved speed and resolution, and access to the most up-to-date imaging techniques. Patients are now able to get a more comprehensive picture of possible injury within a joint or body part, receive a more accurate diagnosis, get more focused treatment, and learn how well they respond to that treatment. The Institute’s agreement with Siemens also allows Imaging Research to test and validate new imaging techniques developed specifically for the type of clinical research being conducted at the Institute. This allows us to utilize cutting-edge techniques in our research and to influence the development of new clinical imaging applications.
Current collaborative projects with CSIRO and the University of Queensland focus on 3D modeling and analysis of structures including the knee meniscus and cruciate ligaments, hip labrum, as well as articular cartilage and bony morphology of the hip, knee, and shoulder. An important component of Imaging Research’s collaboration with the University of Queensland and CSIRO is in the area of automatic segmentation of various tissues. This work will greatly improve the efficiency and reproducibility of image segmentation, needed for the routine clinical applicability of quantitative imaging and other applications that currently require time-consuming manual segmentation.
Current research projects include:
- Evaluating quantitative mapping techniques, which measure small changes in joint tissue properties (water and chemical content, collagen fiber organization), for early detection of joint disease such as osteoarthritis prior to the later stage advanced disruption of joint tissues.
- Comparing MRI and computed tomography (CT) results for orthopaedic/sports medicine imaging applications with the goal of reducing the need for CT and patient exposure to ionizing radiation.
- Auto-segmentation to allow efficient, reproducible clinical use of techniques that currently require time-intensive manual processing.
In summary, the highlights of Imaging Research during 2015 and early 2016 included: 1) 11 published papers in peer-reviewed journals and three podium presentations at international conferences, 2) Continued collaboration with an MRI industry leader Siemens and the researchers at CSIRO/University of Queensland to develop and validate novel and clinically important imaging sequences and software, 3) Upgrade to the Skyra-fit 3.0 T MRI system. Imaging Research will continue to take advantage of its strong collaborations and advanced imaging technology to perform state-of-the-art research and apply cutting-edge imaging tools to improving patient outcomes.