A bronchial GPS based in digital imaging for the early detection of lung cancer

December 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm by

Researchers from the Computer Vision Center and the Bellvitge Hospital, in Barcelona, have developed a technology that allows doctors to locate and move inside the patient’s bronchi following a planned and localized route with augmented reality techniques, videogames and 3D modelling.

The aim of this collaboration is to improve the existing technology in bronchoscopies without adding new instruments during the procedure, as well as achieving that the intervention to be quick, more efficient and less expensive in the obtaining of biopsies, essentials in the early detection of lung cancer.

The technology acts as a lung GPS. It allows pulmonologists to plan the route up until the possible cancer, or even to choose what type of technique to use to obtain the biopsy. With help of computer vision techniques and 3D modelling, an exact virtual replica of the patient’s lung. Thus, the copy is introduced in the software which, with videogame graphic techniques, imitates a bronchoscope surfing through trachea and bronchi until the marked objective. This simile with the ‘videogame’, which acts as a localization map, not only cheapens and eases the process, but can also reduce drastically the amount of interventions with unsuccessful results, avoiding repeated interventions for the patient.

This technology also has other applications. It allows a precise measurement of different parts of the bronchial system, allowing customized stents up to the millimetre, with the advantages this brings. Finally, the software related to this technology also allows a precise calculus of Tracheal stenosis (abnormal narrowing of the central air passageways) in a record time of a few seconds.  Up until now, this diagnosis was made by eye, having to rely on the experience of the assigned doctor. In this way, researchers have found a diagnosis which avoids subjectivity giving an objective and exact tool for doctors.

This project has been funded by the Generalitat of Catalunya and by the ERDF Funds from the European Union.