When a patient goes to a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic to get an MRI scan, he or she trusts that the medical imaging technologies are working properly. NIST and its partners developed tools to benchmark those tests, to support medical decisions and ensure patient trust.
NIST partnered with industry to develop standards and measurement tools for improving medical images used in patient diagnoses. Advanced medical imaging technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are critical to diagnosing diseases such as cancer. Doctors use medical images to find diseased cells and tissue, which helps them make a diagnosis. However, a diagnosis based on an MRI scan is only as good as the quality of the image—if the equipment isn’t calibrated or working properly, the diagnosis may be wrong. NIST helps to improve the quality of medical images by making “phantoms,” which are testing and calibration standards made to simulate the properties of biological materials.
NIST recently worked with Boulder, Colorado-based High Precision Devices, Inc., to create a new breast cancer screening phantom that is compatible with MRI systems from most manufacturers. MRI is recommended as a complement to conventional mammography to detect breast cancer, particularly for women with the highest risk factors. A breast phantom poses a unique set of challenges because the contents must correctly and reliably mimic distributions of fat and tissue.
Breast phantoms from the first production run are now in use, and are employed in a large, multisite clinical trial. Further improvements to the design are expected soon. Before long, they may be used in your local clinic.
120+ NIST-developed phantom standards sold to more than 100 institutions worldwide, including major medical equipment manufacturers and top research hospitals9x Reduction in MRI scan times because of NIST phantom standards and related imaging procedures
“The major benefit of our phantoms is that they are traced back to NIST. That means they can let people know what ground truth is so they can make quantitative measurements with MRI. Many of our industry partners understand how essential this is, and appreciate NIST’s role in medical imaging.”
VP of Imaging Standards Division
High Precision Devices, Inc.
“The designs and specifications provided by NIST are critically important in our goal of making MR imaging more quantitative. Phantoms derived from NIST’s work provide benchmarks on which MRI systems can be calibrated leading to more consistent imaging results and potentially improving the diagnostic accuracy of MRI exams. New techniques with powerful diagnostic potential currently being researched will require the precision enabled by NIST’s work. I believe strongly in the work NIST is doing and see clearly the positive impact it has on the medical imaging industry.”
Senior Director, U.S. MR R&D and Collaborations