What Is Biomedical Image Processing?

Biomedical image processing is the computer analysis of medical imaging studies to return useful and helpful information. This can include sharpening an image to make it easier to read, or creating a visual representation of data. Some medical imaging equipment offers processing functions, and it is also possible to send raw data to a lab for additional processing of a more advanced nature. This work requires the application of statistics and other areas of mathematics to data to process it without distorting it.

Basic medical images may need enhancement and sharpening through biomedical image processing to be easier to read. For example, in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a computer may color code different kinds of tissue and sharpen contrast to allow a viewer to clearly differentiate between structures. The imaging equipment can also magnify so a technician can take a closer look at a specific area of the body or structure of concern. This can provide useful data that might not be visible at lower contrasts and resolutions, which can hide important findings on imaging studies.

Motion analysis is also a part of biomedical image processing. Some equipment allows for real-time imaging or a series of time-lapsed images that may benefit from statistical analysis. This can be important for activities like assessing heart function, where a care provider needs to know how much blood circulates through the heart with each beat. Movement analysis can also be helpful for studies with contrast where doctors want to see how quickly contrast materials move through the patient’s circulation.

Some biomedical image processing involves the collection of data that doesn’t appear in visual format and turning it into a more usable form. In these techniques, medical image processing allows for the conversion of a table of data into images that can provide important insight into patient health. For example, a doctor or medical professional could study the electrical conductivity of a patient’s muscles and generate a map of how long it takes signals to travel, and where they tend to cluster or slow down. This can help with the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Filtering and editing functions are often available on medical imaging equipment and can adjust image data in real time as the equipment generates it. For more advanced biomedical image processing, it may be necessary to send raw data out to a consultation service. The service can manipulate the data and generate some useful images and analysis that may not be available at an imaging center. This work must be done with care to avoid creating inaccuracies in images that might lead to false diagnoses or missed information.