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New Photoshop image deblurring feature could change radiology

More radiologists could become Adobe Photoshop experts if its 'unblur' feature proves practical for medical image editing, one RSNA speaker posits. Rescanning costs should drop.

CHICAGO -- Tucked in a corner basement presentation room far removed from the massive vendor hardware exhibits and mobs of radiologists stuffing McCormick Place's various buildings for the Radiological Society of North America's RSNA 2011 conference -- in fact, you almost had to walk through a McDonald's to get to it -- a doctor demonstrated forthcoming image deblurring technology that both physicians and finance departments at radiology practices will find quite interesting.

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It's not a new application or even a big announcement from a well-known medical vendor, but rather a feature called "unblur." It will make its way into some future version of Adobe Systems Inc.'s Photoshop -- maybe the next version or maybe the one after that, said presenter Mahesh Thapa, M.D., director of Seattle Children's Hospital's radiology department.

The image editing software is used more by publishing production professionals than medical practitioners, but the audience of both teaching and practicing radiologists immediately grasped the potential of image deblurring, judging from the gasps heard in the room -- similar to the reaction it received last month when Adobe previewed Photoshop's image deblurring features at its annual MAX user meeting.


Basically, "unblur" is a filter that corrects for camera shake. In theory, it may also be able to correct for patients who move when getting radiological scans. Currently, this common problem can only be solved by rescanning. That ties up profitable medical equipment and inconveniences patients, some of whom are elderly and suffering from painful conditions that complicate the scanning process.

"Sometimes we'll get a chest radiograph and the patient will have moved, and there's blurring -- a motion artifact; when ['unblur'] does come out I would like to test it to see how good it is [at handling] that," Thapa told after the session ended, adding that image deblurring is unlike any correction feature he's ever seen in other image editing software. "I think there will be applications in radiology."

The question is, how many radiologists are Photoshop experts, and how many might train themselves to use the complex software, which can be daunting to first-timers? Thapa said some medical imaging practitioners are interested Photoshop, especially those at academic medical centers who often use the application's editing features to develop presentations and teaching materials.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Don Fluckinger, Features Writer.

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