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Breast Cancer Detection Achieves Greater Contrast


NVIDIA Corporation, the worldwide leader of programmable graphics processor technologies, and Planar Systems, makers of specialty displays, are cooperating closely to produce display systems that will enable doctors to more effectively screen for breast cancer. The two companies are working to develop high-contrast, 10-bit grayscale display systems for use in mammography and other medical applications.

Currently, digital mammography displays that rely on standard PC workstations are limited to 8-bit grayscale, which provides only 256 possible shades of gray for each pixel. Being limited to 256 shades-of-gray can sometimes obscure valuable data when an image is displayed; mammography systems and other medical sensors, however, are capable of greater degrees of contrast.

Instead of developing specialty hardware, NVIDIA and Planar have developed a method of “pixel packing” that allows 10-bit or 12-bit grayscale data to be transmitted from an NVIDIA Quadro® graphics board to a Planar Dome display using a standard DVI cable. Instead of three 8-bit grayscale channels, now two 10- or 12-bit channels are transmitted, providing up to 864 possible shades of gray at more than three times the image contrast of an 8-bit system.

The best part of this display solution is that specialty hardware is not required, making it readily available for use with other radiology functions. Instead of developing a specialty graphics board that supports 10- or 12-bit grayscale, NVIDIA has incorporated the pixel packing functionality into its Quadro™ driver, allowing Quadro FX 4600 graphics or higher to support a wide range of grayscale panels from various manufacturers.

The two companies will be displaying the system, using Planar’s newly introduced Dome Z16, 16MP true 10-bit display, as well as Dome E5 displays at the RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) 2007 conference in Chicago, 25-30 November. For the demo at the show, Planar has worked with ClearCanvas, an open-source healthcare IT applications company, to alter its open-source digital imaging workstation software to accept and unpack the 10- or 12-bit data. Other software vendors are free to modify their own digital imaging applications to take advantage of the technology.

The close cooperation between NVIDIA and Planar has produced something almost unique in the field of medical technology—superior imaging technology that uses industry-standard hardware. Soon, without a lot of increased costs, radiologists will be able to use these 10-bit display systems to screen for breast cancer more efficiently and with greater confidence.


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