Exciting Images from CHHM Research

Exciting Images from CHHM Research

Each year, CHHM hosts an image contest among graduate students who are conducting research at the Centre. These trainees enjoy the opportunity to showcase their research through images and captions.

This year's winner is  Michele Touchette. Michele is completing a Master's of Applied Science in Biomedical Engineering at UBC.  Her image demonstrates simulated X-ray technology, which is the focus of her work. The development of a simulated X-ray system could help to reduce radiation exposure during bone repair surgeries– it's X-ray vision without the X-rays.

2015 Winner: Death by radiation…No more!
These fluoroscopy (left) and X-ray (right) images were achieved without using radiation.

Why simulated X-rays?

In the context of exposure to X-rays, bone fracture procedures can be very costly for patients and staff inside the operating room (OR). Did you know that one orthopaedic procedure can result in 150 chest X-rays’ worth of radiation exposure? Surgeons require the use of X-rays by means of a mobile C-arm in order to see the placement of tools and implants, especially for non-invasive procedures. Radiology technologists (‘RadTechs’) who get formal training in medical imaging operate these mobile C-arms in the OR. Whenever the surgeon needs a view of the bones, the RadTech moves the C-arm into position and takes an X-ray image.

When RadTechs learn how to use the C-arm, such as at BCIT, training is largely limited to theoretical education, lacking hands-on practice in a surgical environment. A large proportion of the learning curve is therefore carried out in the real OR, where a fast-paced setting makes it stressful and frustrating for both the RadTech and the surgeon. Inexperienced RadTechs often take several ‘trial-and-error’ shots before achieving the surgeon’s desired radiographic view. This results in increased radiation exposure for both the patient and staff, in addition to prolonged surgery times.

The development of a simulated X-ray system could therefore help reduce radiation exposure during bone repair surgeries. RadTechs could generate any number of these artificial X-rays until they’ve reached the correct anatomical view, then the real, clinical X-ray can be taken. How is this achieved? Whenever a patient receives orthopaedic treatment, a CT scan is taken beforehand for three-dimensional planning. This CT scan is input into a software algorithm, along with position information about the C-arm and the patient, and an artificial X-ray is then generated. Patients can therefore benefit from avoiding excessive radiation exposure during these procedures, while OR staff can decrease their overall exposure throughout their careers.


About Michele Touchette

Michele is completing her Master of Applied Science in Biomedical Engineering at UBC, where she also did her undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering. She is part of a lab group at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility that works on making mobile fluoroscopy C-arms ‘smarter’ for navigation during orthopaedic procedures. Michele is also passionate about medical device design for low-resource settings. She is currently part of a design team that is developing a low-cost dynamic wound closure system for use following open-fracture fixation procedures in the developing world. Her team has just sent a prototype to Uganda along with the Uganda Sustainable Trauma Orthopaedic Program (USTOP) surgeons in the fall for user feedback.