These benefits are undermined by a lack of precision, as radiation treatment often kills and damages healthy cells in the areas surrounding a tumor. It can also raise the risk of developing new cancers.
With real-time 3D imaging, doctors can more accurately direct the radiation toward cancerous cells and limit the exposure of adjacent tissues. To do that, they simply need to listen.
When X-rays are absorbed by tissues in the body, they are turned into thermal energy. That heating causes the tissue to expand rapidly, and that expansion creates a sound wave.
The acoustic wave is weak and usually undetectable by typical ultrasound technology. U-M’s new ionizing radiation acoustic imaging system detects the wave with an array of ultrasonic transducers positioned on the patient’s side.
The signal is amplified and then transferred into an ultrasound device for image reconstruction. With the images in hand, doctors can alter the level or trajectory of radiation during the process to ensure safer and more effective treatments.
In the future, they could use imaging information to compensate for uncertainties that arise from positioning, organ motion, and anatomical variation during radiation therapy.
Another benefit is it can be easily added to current radiation therapy equipment without drastically changing the processes that clinicians are used to.
Therefore, this technology can be used to personalize and adapt each radiation treatment to assure normal tissues are kept to a safe dose and that the tumor receives the dose intended.
This would be especially beneficial in situations where the target is adjacent to radiation-sensitive organs such as the small bowel or stomach.
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