Advanced medical imaging testing in Canadian trials for COVID-19 detection

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KA Imaging, a UW spin-off company, has developed Reveal 35C – a dual-energy X-ray detector that has the potential to be used for the early detection of COVID-19. 

The 25-employee company was founded in 2015 by UW graduates Amol Karnick (BASc ’95), Sina Ghanbarzadeh (MASc ’14) and Karim S. Karim (BASc ’99, PhD ’03) Reveal 35C is one of their successful developments in innovative X-ray imaging, and it was recently approved by Health Canada and the United States Food and Drugs Administration for advanced medical imaging. 

With researchers from the University of Toronto and the University Health Network (UHN), KA Imaging is conducting a study for the early detection of COVID-19 in Canadian patients. Given that the virus causes a respiratory infection that can progress into pneumonia, the researchers hope to compare images obtained from the novel imaging technologies, dual-energy X-ray, and thoracic tomograms with CT scan images. They aim to use this data to build an artificial intelligence model for automatic image interpretation for COVID-19 manifestation in the lungs. 

“What we propose is an innovative, multimodal, deep-learning architecture for COVID-19, with a promise to gain higher accuracy of diagnosing COVID-19 than methods based on one single image type,” Dr. Rogalla, the principal investigator of the study, said. 

Reveal 35C is unique in its ability to differentiate between bone and soft tissue in a single exposure. This means that the detector can deliver digital radiography, bone and tissue images in one shot. The images produced are sharp and free of motion artifacts, which  greatly increases diagnostic sensitivity. As a triage tool, Reveal 35C is both inexpensive and portable. The importance of diagnostic accuracy and portability during the pandemic is recognized by the researchers.

“Unlike other dual energy solutions or CT machines, Reveal is portable so it can be taken to the patient, minimizing the risk of spread of COVID-19 infection,” Dr. Karim, chief technology officer of KA imaging, said.

Currently, the study is in the recruitment phase over the next six months with a goal of 600 participants with suspected pulmonary infection . The researchers and company officials are hopeful that with the use of a triage tool for the detection of COVID-19, KA Imaging can play a part in reducing and preventing the spread COVID-19.