New project, being developed at Brown University, promises to improve our understanding of the complex motions of bones and joints:
Computed tomography, or CT, delivers detailed 3-D images, but CT scanners are too slow to capture rapid motion. Cinefluoroscopy, a technique that uses X-rays to view objects, can produce moving images in two dimensions, but not 3-D.
An orthopedic surgeon trying to figure out the best way to repair a torn knee ligament or an evolutionary biologist tracing the disappearance of digits in pigs would face a difficult task. To see the exact position and movement of bones and the ligaments, tendons and cartilage that surround them, would require cutting into flesh — not a desirable option.
The new system, dubbed CTX, will combine the 3-D capability of CT scanners and the real-time movement tracking of cinefluoroscopy. CTX technology is expected to deliver images with exceptional precision and detail. Researchers will be able to track 3-D skeletal movements with 0.1 millimeter accuracy and see the equivalent of 1,000 CT images per second.
The result will be a powerful tool with applications for basic and applied research:
testing new theories of biomechanics, such as muscle-tendon interactions; studying the evolution of bodies and how they move, such as birds’ multijointed wings; planning orthopedic surgeries and comparing the effectiveness of different approaches; creating better treatments for shoulder, wrist, knee and back injuries; driving innovations in computer graphics and scientific visualization.