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New Algorithm Could Substantially Speed Up MRI Scans

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the algorithms-what-can't-they-do dept.

Medicine 115

An anonymous reader writes "In a paper to be published in the journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, researchers detail an algorithm they have developed to dramatically speed up the process of producing MRI scans. The algorithm uses information gained from the first contrast scan to help it produce the subsequent images. In this way, the scanner does not have to start from scratch each time it produces a different image from the raw data, but already has a basic outline to work from, considerably shortening the time it takes to acquire each later scan."

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Irrelevant. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37913972)

In a few more years, no one will be able to afford them anyway.

Re:Irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37917166)

Why was this modded down? Parent is referring to the shortage of helium, which is needed for cooling the superconducting magnets.

Patents etc. (0)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914008)

Not to say the patent system isn't unfair/broken, but it's often been said that we shouldn't patent algorithms, and they should be OS etc. But how about if it's someone's livelihood, and years of research went into the algorithm, like I bet this did? Should programmers be given less due just because they're not working with real materials or making physical inventions?

Re:Patents etc. (1, Insightful)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914056)

On first read, I thought you meant the patient system. That's also broken. Isn't the significance here the increased utilization of these expensive machines?

Seems like the GPGPU is one of the enabling technologies. If someone looked at this ten years ago, likely they would have pulled up short on the computational barrier.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

MichaelKristopeit423 (2018892) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915906)

you think it's less computationally intensive to start from scratch?

ignorance = insightful

slashdot = stagnated

Re:Patents etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916312)

I think you mean "On first scan..."

Re:Patents etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914080)

"MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics" probably has incentives other than patents to do research. Like future research funding. Or prestige.

Re:Patents etc. (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914186)

Publishing in a Journal was the researchers choice. IIRC that pretty much makes the algorithm unpatentable as it's public disclosure (IINAL).

They have their reasons and motivations. Their sponsoring hardware vendor no doubt has a good jump on the competition.

In any case doubling (or better) the utility of MRI machines should have money flowing.

If the multiplier is good enough we might just sell a few clean used MRIs to countries with socialized medicine. Maybe their wait can come down.

Re:Patents etc. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914548)

Or maybe this will actually make it cheep enough for a few more of the less well off majority in America to afford the health-care they need. Rather than being left to die in the gutter like dogs, as they always are when they don't have insurance coverage and the medical treatment is too expensive.

Re:Patents etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914770)

More liberal bullshit. everyone in America knows they don't shovel you into the gutter until *after* your insurance runs out, or the gov't check doesn't clear. This also won't make it cheaper, just increase the profit.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915836)

Publishing in a Journal was the researchers choice. IIRC that pretty much makes the algorithm unpatentable as it's public disclosure (IINAL).

No it does not in the US. But it does start the clock ticking. You have 1 year after that.

In foreign countries however it's first to file, so once you publish it's over.

Re:Patents etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37918408)

[quote]
If the multiplier is good enough we might just sell a few clean used MRIs to countries with socialized medicine. Maybe their wait can come down.
[/quote)

cute

Re:Patents etc. (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919796)

I suspect that the countries with the socialized medicine are better off then US of A with its sad excuse for a health care system. Of course they have their own problems and these need fixing but looking at US of A I'd say nothing to copy from.....

Re:Patents etc. (1)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914248)

I suspect both the research itself and the education of the researchers involved were paid for by grants and fellowships. The patent will likely go to MIT, with some pay-off to the researchers. (I have no opinion on whether that's good or bad.)

Re:Patents etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914388)

And what makes you think they didn't apply for a patent already?

Re:Patents etc. (1)

KeithCu (925649) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914504)

If someone patented a way to make a web browser go faster, you would be comfortable with that? Patents prevent people from being able to build on each others ideas. In a world without software patents, the companies that succeed are the ones that take advantage of everyone else's advancements the best. Patents gum it all up.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920324)

If someone patented a way to make a web browser go faster, you would be comfortable with that?

Patents prevent people from being able to build on each others ideas. In a world without software patents, the companies that succeed are the ones that take advantage of everyone else's advancements the best. Patents gum it all up.

No, patents are supposed to be an exchange. In exchange for disclosing the invention to the public where people can build on the idea, you get a short time of exclusivity where the inventor can benefit from investing in making the product come to market either by doing it by her/himself or licensing the product to other more capable companies.

If not for patents, you'd have people hiding/obscuring thier advanced web browser (or other invention) as a trade secrets that need to be reverse engineered only by large firms that can afford to do reverse engineering and the lawyers they employ or buring advances that they made that they cannot immediately profit from. For example, w/o a patent in hand, if say I had came up with say fast way to compile javascript, but I didn't own a browser infrastructure to deploy that in, I might not bother crossing the t's and dotting the i's to bring that technology to fruition as I would know that no-one would pay me for the additional time it took to perfect/deploy the invention and that advance would have to wait until someone else discovered the technique independently. The financial lure of the patent keeps innovation rolling, it doesn't gum it all up.

Of course, the duration of a patent' exclusivity (currently 20 years) is of current debate. It seems like a long time in these fast changing times and is likely a "tax" that slows down the pace of innovation. However, in a world w/o software patents, the companies that succeed are the ones that take advantage of advancements that they co-opt from other companies, which means that the companies that invest in improving their technology are wasting their money. Not sure that is a better outcome.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914560)

I dunno, this doesn't sound like an algorithm that would take years to develop. It seems fairly straightforward, applying common algorithmic practice to a new media. The same sort of things have been done in image recognition all over the place. And TFA says nothing about how long it took them.

This sort of thing is exactly why algorithms SHOULDN'T be patentable; you can reduce them to basic lambda calculus. They're just logic and math. The very nature of a program is taking a problem and breaking it down into the smallest, simplest of steps. If those simple steps exist, and they're simple enough for a computer to follow, then how are they not innate science? It seems that other people would eventually come to the same conclusion.

I can't think of any algorithms that seem otherwise. I'd love to consider some counterexamples.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914618)

Continued thoughts: (sorry, shouldn't have hit post! :P is there a way to edit /. ? Now I feel super noobish)
I mean, some equations can seem pretty creative, but where would science be if we allowed patents on, say, the Fourier Transform?

Credit for discovering that and all, but you can't lock it up and claim its yours now. If you didn't find it, eventually, unless humanity gives up on academia or dies off, some other mathematician would come to the same equation. They are merely representations of that which is already out there, what is part of our world, and cannot be owned.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914818)

In a sense though, what you say can apply to physical inventions too, as the same creativeness is required in that case - it's just you're working with physical materials rather than lines of code (I certainly believe all stuff is discovered, it's just that physical inventions probably have many more parts and ideas than most algorithms, and so could be considered an 'implementation'). Anyway, it wouldn't surprise me if there's something like the Fourier transform, but much more complicated and 'inventive'.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914784)

That's the thing yes. I've heard before how algorithms are just too modular (and build off other work) to be worth meriting a patent.

Surely someone here on Slashdot can give a counterexample?

At the least though, it seems prudent to at least protect their implementation by not making it open source (not in all cases of course, as some base libraries and functionality should be open, and that helps humanity, such as the PNG spec), but that's a separate issue I guess.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

GNious (953874) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919098)

Call me when I can get my MRI images in an open format, readable on something else that Windows.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

syutzy (2499014) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919260)

DICOM is an open format, although very complex and full of manufacturer compliance issues. You can read the images with many different tools on almost every platform in use today (Windows/OSX/*nix/iOS/Android/etc). I think what you meant is "I don't like that the crappy software they bundle on my CD of images only runs on windows"

Re:Patents etc. (1)

GNious (953874) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919342)

Interesting thank you... ...and yes - I've asked and been told that the stuff on the CD is closed format and only available in this 1 way - going to website of the manufacturer confirmed this, so your post is most certainly interesting!

Re:Patents etc. (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920798)

As commented elsewhere, dicom is an open format. I used Osirix [osirix-viewer.com] on my Mac to view the MRI of my wife's spine.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915326)

I don't think there are many people (at least among those who think patents are valid in some way) who don't believe you should be able to patent algorithms. An algorithm is a process or method, the concept of which has been around since the patent system was created. Algorithms can be factory processes, chemical reactions, implemented in mechanical or electrical hardware, etc.

I think people's main protest is in implementing software that has no inherently novel algorithms - things that just seem like arranging UI elements on a screen, formatting text/XML in a specific way, etc. One click purchase is not a novel algorithm. TV electronic program grid guides are not an algorithm. In fact, a very specific way that these are implemented *could* be considered one, but that shouldn't prevent someone else from writing different code that ends up with the same result.

Re:Patents etc. (5, Informative)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915642)

Not to say the patent system isn't unfair/broken, but it's often been said that we shouldn't patent algorithms, and they should be OS etc. But how about if it's someone's livelihood, and years of research went into the algorithm, like I bet this did? Should programmers be given less due just because they're not working with real materials or making physical inventions?

I've worked as a "programmer" (at least, in part) for 19/22 years in my career, I have over a dozen patents issued - I got a thousand dollar bonus each for maybe three of them, any employment contract I have ever signed immediately transfers ownership of any of "my" inventions to the company, including future royalties, etc. etc. I think my working conditions, with respect to IP ownership, are representative of >90% of programmers out there.

Of those rare programmers who might invent something patentable while not under contract to their employer to transfer ownership of the IP, probably >90% of them can't afford the time and expense of prosecuting a patent application.

Of those especially rare programmers who might successfully get a patent or two of their own, most of them could not afford to do anything about it if a corporation of any size infringed their patent, at best they might hope to sell their IP to a megacorp, but they wouldn't be in much of a position to negotiate its value. An exception to this is when working for ultra-small startups, but 19/22 of my years have been at something like 6 different startups varying from 6-25 people in size, any smaller would be very hard from an income security standpoint - the thing I have never done is sign-on at the moment of inception when company shares are being handed out like toilet paper (hint: you'd usually get better value out of toilet paper than shares in startups that green.)

Of those exceedingly rare programmers who might have the means to negotiate fair value for their own issued patents, most of them probably don't need the money anyway and have better things to do with their time.

Physicians seem to have just enough personal financial juice to get something out of the patent system, but even they are kind of in a commodity market - I've heard it said among investors "these medical device startups, if they have all their IP in order and something worth something to someone somewhere, they pretty much have a standard value of about $3M if you can find an exit buyer." The physicians and their friends tend to sink $500K to $1M into the company "building it up" to a point where it is interesting to the bigger players, getting their FDA clearances, etc. Some get lucky and get bought, many just fizzle out after the early round investors get tired of pumping money in.

Oh, for what it's worth, 80%+ of my patents have nothing to do with software / algorithms, and none of the ones that got me the bonuses did. Sadly, several of them are crap, mostly the ones I got the bonus money for. In the non-bonus environment, if an idea was crap, I'd have little enthusiasm for it, which would tend to turn off everyone else and it would die in development. However, in the bonus driven environment, you'd tend to "read" the rest of the team (including upper management who were rarely present at meetings), and if they liked it, hell yeah, I like it too, let's get this application done and get that bonus!

Re:Patents etc. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916200)

I've worked in software for around 10 years, and am a proud patent infringer on at least one patent. I didn't know about my infringement at the time, and by the time I did the software wasn't in use anymore, so it didn't matter. I say proud, because the "invention" is very, very widely used, and is quite obvious. So I'm quite proud to have infringed on this patent, thus proving how useless the patent system has become. No, I won't say what I infringed on, (patent trolls are quite real).

I've no doubt that if I spent my days reading through patents, I'm sure I'd find I've infringed on dozens, if not hundreds of patents I've infringed on. The one I infringed on I found out from merely a fluke. Given the silly, and broadly defined things that are allowed to be patented, I'm sure most developers have violated many patents over the years.

Re:Patents etc. (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37918298)

Oh yeah, I was "infringing" on the "use of XOR to display a graphic cursor" patent for years before I knew it existed... I'm pretty sure it's expired now.

Fifteen minutes (2)

Aerorae (1941752) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914014)

in an electromagnetically charged TUBE is still unfun. Where's my tricorder already?!

Re:Fifteen minutes (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914030)

Still beats being molested by government goons at the airport. And train station. And random highway stops.

Re:Fifteen minutes (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916156)

I wonder if this will ALSO drive prices down. But knowing scientists, and most importantly, *marketers*, this will just be used to develop new fancy scans to add to the current pile...

Reminds me of the early workunit system for SETI@home I participated in back in the days of 300Mhz PC's: as the broadband and turn of the century multimedia PC sale movement started exploding with monster speeds (and little to no modern-day spyware to slow the avg PC down), SETI made big changes in the ~2.0 client and started forcing everyone to upgrade (or else...). Workunits that would take you less time to get you ahead of the very competitive stat sharing no longer would do so. And people stuck with old PC's would do even worse. But I digress.

Money is rarely ever "returned" to the consumer when the industry moves on to cheaper alts. Someone might argue RAM prices, but you're buying DIFFERENT RAM with every breakthrough that doesn't work on the older PCs. Sounds to me like these expensive MRI machines would have flash ROMs that can receive new instructions. Like you know, in case some lawsuit out there comes out of the discovery that M procedure in your million dollar machine has been causing cancer with N current parameters.

Re:Fifteen minutes (1)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919028)

in an electromagnetically charged TUBE is still unfun...

True, but the reduced time makes it less likely that there'll be 'motion blur'. This will result in better diagnoses on the average, and will also make it less likely that you'll have to endure a repeat experience "in an electromagnetically charged TUBE".

Let me guess, MRIs will now cost more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914026)

Forget about the staff's time, the facility, the equipment - they'll raise the price of an MRI to pay off whichever patent troll gets the rights.

Re:Let me guess, MRIs will now cost more (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915676)

This should actually be a win-win, in that the price of the MRI can stay the same, but now they can process more cattle through the gate per day, so income goes up. Since it's a software change, it will only cost a few million to roll it out through the regulatory system, no real additional cost in hardware or facilities. We can hope that the troll (if any exists, it sounds like this was published in a Journal) would be fed from a portion of the increased income.

So... (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914050)

They are boosting the stargate? MRI always reminds me im crossing a stargate....

Re:So... (1)

Aerorae (1941752) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914412)

You too!? I was always disappointed when I opened my eyes on the other side and saw more hospital ceiling....

Why wait? (1)

jasno (124830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914130)

TFA seems to imply that a patient spends more time in the tube because of the slow processing of the images.... Is there a reason they need to be in the tube while the images are developed? Maybe they need to retake images if they didn't come out? Barring that... wtf? Why not just do the scan and process the images offline on another piece of equipment? Storage is cheap nowadays, and caching the received RF data temporarily should be feasible.

Re:Why wait? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914220)

I work at an MRI research lab at UPenn and I can comment to this article (surprised it is on the front page BTW). During a normal clinical scan, the imaging protocol typically requires several different image types to be acquired (T1-weighted, T2-weighted, PD-weighted, T1rho maps, ASL, DTI, etc). Wikipedia can explain what those mean. So with a slew of different image types, the clinician can make a diagnosis based on different contrasts from each image type. The contrasts are based on the inherent T1, T2, T2*, T1rho, diffusion, etc. of the tissue. When creating the image, the scanner plays out a series of RF pulses (between 65-300 Hz depending on MRI field strength - look up Larmor Frequency). The image reconstruction essentially is a 2D or 3D Fourier Transform of a series of data points (which are actually electrical signals picked up by the MRI equipment). The raw data (k-Space in MRI terms or Fourier space everywhere else) consists of high-frequency and low frequency data. The high-frequency data ends up creating edge borders in the images and the low frequency generates the actual gray-scale contrast between tissues. Without reading the article, I assume that the researchers are copying the high-frequency data from one set to another thereby eliminating the need to generate edges. Without the edges, the images would be a big blur. The issue with this is if there is patient movement from one data set to the next it is difficult to accurately guess the borders (can potentially use navigators to correct). The more data you copy the more the contrast does not change from one set to the next so there is a trade-off from speed to accuracy.

As for doing the data reconstruction offline, 2D or 3D Fourier transforms take the computer like 1 second to do so it is not a reconstruction issue.

Sorry for the length.

Mod up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914346)

+5 for having knowledge of the matter being discussed

Re:Why wait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914446)

Sorry for the length.

Are you apologizing for being awesomely informative?

Re:Why wait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914766)

I operate MRIs for psychological experiments, but I'm always in awe of the people that understand the technology in-depth.

Re:Why wait? (1)

netdigger (847764) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914834)

I think that its astonishing that has made a big impact on our lives and hardly no one know how they work. I know the work on magnets, (some kind of magic) but other then that I have no clue how they work. I thought that the time that they take was simply because of a hardware limitation. If you want a better image then they take longer.

Thank you for you insight

Re:Why wait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914916)

The reason so few people understand how they work is that even physicists find MRI mind bending. It's one of those subjects that makes sense as it's being explained to you but 2 days later you are scratching your head again. I must have learned how an MR scanner works 5 times but because I don't work with them every day the specifics (gradient-pulse-echo-what?) never stick for long.

Re:Why wait? (4, Interesting)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914922)

"If you want a better image then they take longer."

That's very true with MRI (my research is with MRI). We have our research participants spend 70 minutes in the MRI scanner. This is to capture 6 (7 with a localizer - a quick scan to set up the scanning area) different types of brain images. Our longest individual scan is just over 19 minutes. However, I have a project in the planning stages that will allow me to increase the resolution dramatically (from 1 mm^3 or 2 mm^3 to .25 mm^3 or .5 mm^3 {or, hopefully even higher resolution}); however, this will require scans of many hours (not with live humans), even more than 24 hours in some cases.

This new algorithm seems like it could really help clinicians and some researchers. My type of scanning won't be helped by it for a long time though because I cannot sacrifice quality for speed. I need the sharpest, least distorted images possible. Clinically, that doesn't matter as much because radiologists are not quantifying parts of the brain in the same way that I do.

It's a fascinating technology though. Anything we can do to speed up scan acquisition and post-processing is very welcome.

Re:Why wait? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915730)

It's a fascinating technology though. Anything we can do to speed up scan acquisition and post-processing is very welcome.

I suppose you have your own dedicated MRI... I did a bit of MRI safety testing and was always scrounging (typically for $500 per hour) time in various clinical systems when they weren't being used for patients.

Do you have to restrain your subject's skull in place for 19 minutes while taking your image?

Re:Why wait? (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915938)

We buy time on a clinical scanner (we used to use a dedicated research scanner but it went bad and destroyed almost a year's worth of research - image artifact that was not obvious on a standard quality check, it only came out upon close inspection after post-processing). Time is important (we've almost been kicked off by the MRI techs who were impatient) but quality is key so we just scan really early in the morning. We have some minor passive restraints on our subjects - they are wedged in the head coil pretty snugly. We've had only minor issues with movement. There are ways to correct for motion; they aren't perfect but they help.

We'd love to reduce our scan time (I think we could but we stretch out the time of some of our series to try and get as much brain coverage, quality, and resolution as possible) but we are also wary of what artifacts might get introduced by further processing of data (especially on the scanner end). We try to use full Fourier sampling as well, in order to reduce the running of algorithms that might reduce data quality. It increases scan length but we are really concerned about quality; even slight reductions in quality can result in significant changes in our results.

Compressed Sensing (1)

LeDopore (898286) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922588)

Hey dude,

Want to reduce scan times? Check out compressed sensing MRI [1]. You should be able to take way fewer scans than thought possible with 20th century math. Regularized reconstructions are the new hotness, but don't take the word of a Slashdot user who says "dude" and "new hotness"; read these fricking things.

[1] M. Lustig, D. Donoho, J. Santos, and J. Pauly, “Compressed sensing MRI,” IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 72–82, 2008.

Re:Why wait? (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915810)

I was a little confused about the 15 minute claim, how long is spent "shimming" the magnet for a subject? I'm surprised that alone isn't 10 minutes (I know nothing of MRI, only NRM).

Re:Why wait? (1)

syutzy (2499014) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919360)

For most clinical exams, shimming (if it's even done at all) only takes a minute or so on a reasonably modern systems, and is done prior to certain sequences (like EPI). Shimming is not nearly as important with most clinical imaging acquisitions as it is for spectroscopy. Even most clinical spectroscopy or CSI doesn't require the incredible shimming effort of a structural NMR scan.

Re:Why wait? (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37923650)

Thanks.

Re:Why wait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916642)

"take the computer like 1 second to do so it is not a reconstruction issue."

You've never worked on a Toshiba system...

Re:Why wait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37922470)

Thanks for clearing that up.

Re:Why wait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37922822)

I think you mean 65-300 MHz, not Hz :-)

Re:Why wait? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915708)

To shorten the AC's reply: MRIs are developed like a long exposure on film. The energy that the images are created from accumulates over time, that is the time the patient must spend in the bore. There are some calculations that can be done after the raw data is acquired (and the patient technically does not have to be in the bore for this), but the newer machines can do those calculations quickly compared to the time required to "ping" the hydrogen atoms throughout the area of interest in your body and listen to them resonate.

In other words, you can't rush the basic Physics of an MRI, but these guys have found a way to take the data in a smarter fashion so that less "pinging" is required.

Technology and medical costs (2)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914160)

There are too many people completely misunderstanding that innovation and inventions and new technology drives costs down.

MRI shortens the time it takes to understand what is wrong with a patient, the precision of understanding goes very high, there is very little need (if any) for exploratory surgery with good imaging. Yet people (and on THIS site!) argue that technology is almost supposed to push medical costs higher. This is absolute nonsense.

When this new algorithm makes it into the MRI machines, do you suppose the costs of using the machines will go or down.

Think about it: if there is more throughput with the same equipment, so there are more people being scanned faster, do the costs go up or down? It's the same salaried stuff. It's the same electricity! It's the same machine that's being amortized (crazy government not letting businesses write cost of capital purchases against taxes in the first year, forcing even loans to be taken for that!)

So think about this new algorithm and every new technology that has been developed in the last 60 years. Now think about the actual costs of health care going up. Does this compute?

Now realize that the other factors include government created inflation, government money - Medicare, government subsidies and protections via FDA (you think you can build a better MRI machine in your garage and sell it more competitively to make a profit? Do you HAVE half a billion dollars to push it through FDA?)

This technology is great, but it only really brings costs down, increases efficiency and actually helps people by not participating in destruction of economy in free markets, not in any type of economies that are government controlled.

Also - there is much to do in medical field. There are all sorts of needs there, but with all the regulations you won't be able to just build a company making this stuff, coming up with new innovations and inventions. You can't do it in USA or the rest of the Western world because of government.

If you have these ideas of profiting from providing people with better technology - learn Mandarin.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914402)

Are you knowledgeable on anything, at all?

MRI shortens the time it takes to understand what is wrong with a patient

That is only true if an MRI is available nearby.

there is very little need (if any) for exploratory surgery with good imaging

An MRI will never replace a biopsy. Never. It is good at seeing structure but it can't tell you what is going on at the cellular level.

Yet people (and on THIS site!) argue that technology is almost supposed to push medical costs higher. This is absolute nonsense.

Everything in this country increases medical costs. No matter what happens - even if nothing at all happens - costs go up because the system is built around the insurance companies. And the insurance companies are constructed to deny care to their customers. We couldn't have designed a more fucked-up system had we set out with that as our intent.

Think about it: if there is more throughput with the same equipment, so there are more people being scanned faster, do the costs go up or down?

As I already stated, in this country costs only go up. That is all there is to it. Someone could create a miracle pill tomorrow afternoon that healed broken bones (to use a very simple example) faster than Wolverine in the comics for $.05 per dose, and the insurance companies would still jack up prices because that is what they do.

It's the same salaried stuff. It's the same electricity!

That is a gross oversimplification, at the very least. You are overlooking the cost on the instrument for one - an MRI scanner is a lot more than just a tube. You still have to prep the patient. You still have to get them into - and out of - the tube. You still have to maintain the instrument. If you have a massive cooling failure on the instrument because you are using it for a larger portion of the day, you just screwed yourself.

you think you can build a better MRI machine in your garage and sell it more competitively to make a profit? Do you HAVE half a billion dollars to push it through FDA?

If you knew anything at all about the FDA you would know that a scanner doesn't have anywhere near the same kind of clearances to pass at the FDA as a drug. Not even remotely close. That said, it is highly unlikely you would have the power and cooling (just to name a few requirements) in your garage to build a better MRI.

For that matter most people would probably dim the lights in their neighborhood if they brought an MRI to full power in their garage.

There are all sorts of needs there, but with all the regulations you won't be able to just build a company making this stuff, coming up with new innovations and inventions. You can't do it in USA or the rest of the Western world because of government.

Apparently in your world Medtronic doesn't exist? Or St. Jude's? Or any of the dozens of companies making cardiovascular stents?

If you have these ideas of profiting from providing people with better technology - learn Mandarin.

If you want to look less less of an idiot - learn to read.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914484)

That said, it is highly unlikely you would have the power and cooling (just to name a few requirements) in your garage to build a better MRI.

For that matter most people would probably dim the lights in their neighborhood if they brought an MRI to full power in their garage.

MRI is inherently scalable -- that is, you can develop imaging algorithms on an imager for chipmunks then scale up. I have seen essentially desktop-sized NMR imagers used for studies of small archeozoological artifacts, for veterinary imaging of small animals, an for research on NMR/MRI algorithms. So if I were to start doing something like that, I would not be encumbered by anything you mentioned. With groundwork laid, I'd look for VC or buyout to scale it up.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915022)

I usually ignore your free-market trolling, but in this case I have some actual knowledge about how biomedical research works. Also, one of the authors already has the full paper available for download on his website [mit.edu] . Guess who paid for it?

"Grant sponsor: National Institutes of Health; Grant number: NIH R01 EB007942; Grant sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF); Grant number: 0643836; Grant sponsor: Siemens Healthcare (The Siemens-MIT Alliance)."

Still think it's great technology? (Yeah, I know - the free market would have thought of it first if the big bad government wasn't taking its money.)

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915398)

I didn't RTFM at first and I still didn't now. I don't care who and how this came out to be, that was not the center of my point at all, did you even read it?

My point has nothing to do with who invented THIS particular thing or ANY thing, my point is that government money, influence, power, regulations, laws, taxes, subsidies, protections, bail outs, stimulus and GUNS to our heads make it impossible for normal free market to work and drive costs down via competition.

I don't care WHO came out with what, in free market there is competition that you won't see in this patented, copyrighted, trade marked prison.

The farm, where the system is collecting your tax money to buy the idea from the cows that they NEED the farmer. That it's not just a ruse, just a farm, just slaughter house, where the cows get milked, get slaughter and get eaten, and where the favors are bought with that same money that cows may have produced at some point, and now it's just their lives (and their children lives), but it's instead a benevolent system that is by the people for the people designed to protect the people. It's absurd.

What people are protected by this miserable terrorist mafia organization that you call government and I call your owner? Which people are protected?

The idea that you can have what you want by playing nice with the bully that the government is, the idea that the bully will help you while he really uses you as meat. You are the collateral in the global debt repositioning, you are part of the herd, the farm.

They buy your 'vote' in this, you think - well, they will set it up, I'll have a medical insurance/health system. I'll have a pension. I'll have a union job. May you will. Maybe you are one of those who do get to participate in the union jobs. But then you are just part of the farmer's club. You are not the owner, but you get the crumbs.

But the point is that the system is designed to make you support it with all this nonsense, but the system grows, because all this productivity of the past liberty created all this space for it to grow, eventually it grew beyond the real space and now it's growing in vacuum, just by inertia of the past growth, not by any new production. You don't actually produce anything except debt anymore, and the counterfeit money and whatever can be stolen from those who still do produce (under 7% and shrinking), this can't save the system, but it can create more inflation and more DESIRE for more of the same - having the farmer subsidize more of your 'free' drugs and food and wars and oil and plastics.

--

There is no freedom and so there is no prosperity, but there is inflation and there are monopolies and there is counterfeit currency still being printed, and it can be printed for a little while longer.

Freedoms make society prosper and government destroys what it feeds on, because Matrix was only half correct: it's not the humans as individuals that are the parasite and virus, it's the system that humans create - the government system that is parasitic and destroys the host.

Wake up.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916430)

The trick is that NO true Scotsman (oops, free market) will ever be found, so it can never be wrong.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915046)

If you have these ideas of profiting from providing people with better technology - learn Mandarin.

Okay, now I'm double-posting, but I just couldn't resist: do you really think that China is more of a free market than the United States? Do you really think their government just stays out of the way and never micromanages anything? China may be notorious for letting employers treat workers like cattle and generate massive amounts of industrial pollution, but that's not the same as having a laissez-faire economy.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915518)

"Yet people (and on THIS site!) argue that technology is almost supposed to push medical costs higher. This is absolute nonsense."

Nonsense or not, this counterintuitive result it is backed by empirical evidence in the USA.

"When this new algorithm makes it into the MRI machines, do you suppose the costs of using the machines will go or down."

When you get a MRI how much money pays for
(a) the MRI machine
(b) the R&D for the MRI machine
(c) the hospital or facility which owns it
(d) the radiologist

(c) + (d) >> (a) + (b)

In the USA the new algorithm will make it into the next MRI machine generation which GE Healthcare will sell for $$$$$$$$$$ in the USA (and a near clone for $ in 'developing' world), the operating firm will buy it and jack up their billing cost, just like everybody else doing the same thing, the radiology group will increase their fees accordingly. Blue cross will increase their payment as being "typical" for the region, and jack up their rates.

If a scan really can take less time, the medical groups will be strongly 'encouraged' to refer more patients to the MRI clinic. this works well when they have ownership in the MRI clinic as well.

This has happened consistently for 25-30 years now throughout technological changes. What will make it different now?

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

Me! Me! 42 (1153289) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915920)

The lion's share of medical expenses lay in Pharmaceuticals. Unsurprisingly the lions share of made in medicine go to the pharmaceutical companies (although insurance companies do well also.) This is largely a result of concentrating their energy on unethical and usurious schemes involving pharmaceuticals designed to maximize profits rather than concentrating on creating pharmaceuticals that are effective for sick people.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37917700)

the pharma has the consumer by the balls because of FDA, because of Medicare, because of special gov't privileges.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919168)

the pharma has the consumer by the balls because of FDA, because of Medicare, because of special gov't privileges.

And once they're all gone, what then?

"Pharma" will still have the consumer by the balls, because it would be terrible if little Timmy died since you refused to shell out a million dollars to prolong his life another three miserable cancer-ridden months, you monster.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919356)

No, if all the costs added by government and all the license fees, patents, copyrights and costs of passing FDA are gone, then the barrier to entry is insignificant. Anybody can come up with new medical instruments and drugs actually, the technology now made it much cheaper - from DNA sequencers to computer tech and tools, to allow anybody basically to come up with new stuff in their garages.

The reason that there is little development in many medical areas today is not that there is no market and no way to make money, the problem is that gov't added cost is too high to overcome that barrier to entry and it makes it unprofitable to search for ways to treat many medical conditions, so it's much safer just to concentrate on things that huge numbers of population are having real OR perceived problems with (baldness, erectile difficulties, psychological problems and all the related shit - from hair growing elixirs to whatever they use to get your dick up and running at age of 80 to Xanax instead of pot) than to try and find cures for real problems.

The real problem is gov't costs prevents many competitors from entering the market with real innovations.

Re:Technology and medical costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920604)

No, if all the costs added by government and all the license fees, patents, copyrights and costs of passing FDA are gone, then the barrier to entry is insignificant. Anybody can come up with new medical instruments and drugs actually, the technology now made it much cheaper - from DNA sequencers to computer tech and tools, to allow anybody basically to come up with new stuff in their garages.

It's one thing to come up with a drug in your garage, it's another to test it to make sure it's safe for human consumption. That can take years even in the absence of government

Of course, you can always just take any untested drug off anybody's garage (that's what drug addicts have to do to get their illegal drugs). If that's the case I have this aroma therapy drug for you, please have a smell on this rag. Don't worry if it smells like chloroform, that means it's working! (and don't worry about my Chinese organ harvesting colleagues behind me... they're just on their way to getting iPads for their kids)

The reason that there is little development in many medical areas today is not that there is no market and no way to make money, the problem is that gov't added cost is too high to overcome that barrier to entry and it makes it unprofitable to search for ways to treat many medical conditions

Nah, it's unprofitable because paying you once for a cure won't keep you fed everyday. What keeps you fed everyday is if people are chronically sick, so they have to keep paying you for a treatment everyday.

Most people (who might make drugs in their own garages) aren't willing to string people along just to make a profit.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

shilly (142940) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922774)

Tell you what, Roman, can you post a video of your trying out an exciting drug that's been developed in an area of the world that's refreshingly unencumbered by such silly nonsense as safety regulation and clinical trials? Do post it on YouTube, there'd be lots of people who'd love to watch.

Re:Technology and medical costs (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37923332)

Tell you what, I used a number of drugs that are not FDA approved but are used legally in other parts of the world. Is that good enough for you?

I'll be more impressed... (2)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914270)

... when someone can make an MRI scan quieter. Going through an MRI scan to diagnose the causes of my migraines is almost enough to give me a low-grade headache on its own. Most MRI scans sound like an Atari arcade game cranked up loud to try to overcome the noise of the active quarry it was installed in.

Granted, it beats being irradiated, but if I could change anything about it I would make it quieter. Hell I'd tolerate it taking longer if it was quieter; they are kinda cozy and I could take a nap in the scanner if it wasn't so damned loud.

Re:I'll be more impressed... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914360)

The sounds come from the Lorentz force shaking the gradients during the RF pulses. There is a lot of research to minimize gradient slew rates to minimize the vibrations (make things quieter). Make sure you get ear-plugs when scanned.

Re:I'll be more impressed... (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914492)

If I were to attack this, I'd think of installing gradient coils on some sort of electrostrictive material and issue pulses to both to provide opposite loads on the coil structure.

Re:I'll be more impressed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914390)

I've wondered why they are so loud also. Anybody have the answer?

Re:I'll be more impressed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914486)

Look at the other comment in this thread

Re:I'll be more impressed... (2)

Brucelet (1857158) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914500)

I actually have taken a nap in an MRI machine. I get scanned regularly after having a tumor removed a few years back, and with practice I've found it is possible to shut the noise out and doze a while.

Re:I'll be more impressed... (1)

Me! Me! 42 (1153289) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915964)

Amazing what one can get used to. About 25 years ago I had to endure 2 heroic root canals. Each one tooth required about 5 or 6 45 minute sessions a few days apart. Each session involving Novocain, dental dam and various combinations of gum surgery, drilling, filing, sealing, filling, etc. By the 6th session I was falling asleep in the chair, much to the annoyance of the endodontist.

Re:I'll be more impressed... (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915584)

With ear plugs and noise canceling headphones with music on it is quite quiet in there. Some modern scanners actually have noise cancelling speakers in the bore but it gets hard to fit a lot of stuff in there safely without impeding your scans or space. There is a lot of research being done in the commercial space to make them more aesthetic but in the end, you're dealing with quite a strong force in there, it's hard to counteract nature.

Re:I'll be more impressed... (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919558)

I'm sorry, you're using headphones, with magnets in them, in an MRI?

http://bitsandpieces1.blogspot.com/2005/08/watch-out-for-that-flying-chair.html [blogspot.com]

Re:I'll be more impressed... (1)

Trouvist (958280) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919882)

Yes.

Re:I'll be more impressed... (1)

Aggrajag (716041) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920262)

I've been in one MRI scan and I got headphones and got to choose the type of music I wanted to listen to. I fell asleep during the first song.

Re:I'll be more impressed... (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920328)

The headphones I've seen are completely nonmetallic. The speaker is in a different room from the scanner and sounds are transmitted via a plastic tube.

Re:I'll be more impressed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915652)

Ooops, those sounds were coming from inside your own head. Someone forgot to tell you about the effects of radiation on brain tissue. ;)

Re:I'll be more impressed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37917496)

Agreed - during my recent MRI (lower body only, so a mere 45 minutes inside), the noise was so great that I couldn't hear the music piped in to the headphones I was given to wear. However, aside from the noise, I did nearly fall asleep inside (helped that I was severely ill at the time, I suppose).

Re:I'll be more impressed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37919138)

Please no, I loved having an MRI done on me because it was so awesome sounding. I wish I had a recording of it.

What about fMRI? (1)

Egg Sniper (647211) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914456)

I'd be more interested to know whether this will speed up acquisition of BOLD (blood oxygen level dependent) signals during fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). The temporal resolution (time between frames) of fMRI has been a huge limiting factor in research. Increasing the rate even by a modest factor of 3 would go a long way to towards making fMRI competitive with EEG (electroencephalogram) (which can collect data in real time but with very little spatial resolution). While you're wikiing, check out DTI (diffuse tensor imaging).

Re:What about fMRI? (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#37918618)

The speed of fMRI is limited in part by the speed with which oxyhemoglobin levels in the brain change. Although blood flow patterns in the brain can change quickly (less than 1 sec), the speed at which oxygen and hemoglobin saturation levels in the tissue change is longer (several seconds).

You can't get (useful) temporal information that is faster than the phenomenon you are trying to measure. For instance: turn on an oven and measure the temperature. Sure, you can read a temperature sensor at almost arbitrary speeds - MHz is not out of the question. But the oven itself isn't going to get up to temperature in anything less than a few minutes.

Uh... Caching? (2)

pavera (320634) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914772)

Since when is caching a "new" algorithm? From the basic info in the summary it appears this is just a cache of some initial processing that is then reused for subsequent image generation passes...

Re:Uh... Caching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915226)

It's not caching, but still not a new algorithm. Sounds like some heuristics, image processing, machine learning, etc. etc. Maybe it was something new for them.

Re:Uh... Caching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915864)

Have you done any research in machine learning? Just curious.

Re:Uh... Caching? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916026)

They're using a new algorithm [merriam-webster.com] to capture the MRI data. Why is that unclear? They didn't claim anything like "invented a new basic computer science algorithm".

Re:Uh... Caching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37918380)

You don't think that by putting "New Algorithm" in the title they claim to have invented a new algorithm? Why not call it "New Software..."?

Re:Uh... Caching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37919062)

You think this because you don't have image processing experience.

It doesn't matter (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915096)

In the end, Dr. House will still barge in, pop a few Vicodin and flip the patient over, revealing the infected tattoo on his ass* (the one his buddies got for him after a night of heavy drinking) that is the cause of all the peculiar symptoms.

* Rabbit tracks down one cheek into the gully and Elmer Fudd with shotgun on the other saying, "Come out of there you Qwazy Wabbit!"

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915814)

LOL. This post is priceless.

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#37918654)

Ah, House - where internists do brain surgery, psychiatrists run MRI scanners, everyone does their own labs, and a brilliant medical team only has one patient to deal with at a time! Why can't all of medicine work that well?

original paper (1)

human spam filter (994463) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915646)

Link to paper: http://www.rle.mit.edu/stir/documents/BilgicGA_MagResMed2011.pdf [mit.edu] I guess the reason this shows up on slashdot is that it was on MITnews (and of course the work was done at MIT). It is nothing really groundbreaking (or novel for that matter). They use Compressive Sensing where they assume that the different scan types (T1, T2,etc) have a similar structure (same sparsity profile, enforced through shared precision hyperparameters in a Bayesian formulation).

start with modernizing the hardware (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#37917036)

The reason these algorithms can actually give a significant gain, is because most MRI scanners and other medical scanners use computers that we ourselves abandoned 10-20 years ago. I've seen SGI machines not being sold new anymore for over 15 still in active use on digital Rontgen scanners. The MRI they took of me was processed on a P3 PC.

Similarly impressive Technology (1)

oneofthose (1309131) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919392)

While I can not comment on the content or merit of this work since I have not read the paper I can say that there is a lot of research going on in the area of MRI and a number of exciting things are happening. I work in a research group that works on impressive MRI techniques combined with algorithms that allow taking entire MRI movies (not just photographs). This is extremely interesting when looking at the beating human heart, speaking humans or moving joints. We are really just beginning to explore the potential this technology has for clinical applications. More information including impressive videos can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real-time_MRI [wikipedia.org] .

The idea behind the extremely fast acquisition times is extreme under-sampling combined with iterative algorithms that are able to produce high quality images despite the incomplete measurements. This algorithms also exploit the fact that between two frames there is not a lot of change in the images since they are taken at time intervals of only dozens of ms. They are of course more complicated than simple fourier transforms as they model the acquisition process in more detail.

MRI for kids? (1)

muckracer (1204794) | more than 2 years ago | (#37923398)

Does anyone have experiences with (brain) MRI's for kids (10 and under)? In order to 'keep them quiet' enough for the scan (and scary noise!), is a full-blown anaesthesia necessary? What options do exist?

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