Healthcare Technology Featured Article

February 14, 2013

Virtual Microscopy Process Inefficiencies Could be Mitigated by Open Source Software

Perhaps one of the most compulsory functions of any healthcare system is the examination of microscopic tissue samples and cells. Virtual microscopy has become a very popular way to digitize the slide samples. It is also a very clear-cut method of investigating the spread and presence of cancer in tissue. The problem with virtual microscopy, though, is the automated image analysis process and any sort of Web publishing of digital imagery, mostly due to the fact that the digital images produced are enormous. This leads to heavy bandwidth usage and excessive consumption of computer resources, as well as a waiting period to fully download any images. The resolutions of many of these images exceed 45 megapixels.

A group at the Diagnostic Pathology journal has developed two applications in Java to deal with this issue: Snapshot Creator and NDPI-Splitter. Together, these tools can serve the medical industry by making slides more easily-navigable. Snapshot Creator creates a JPEG image of any portion of a slide, and NDPI-Splitter splits the original slide (in NDPI format, of course) into multiple smaller TFF image chunks. With Deep Zoom technology, the slide can be navigated much like how you currently would navigate with Google Earth or Google Maps. This kind of software would make presentation and pinpointing of particular areas of interest very simple and less time-consuming.

The uses of this software for the medical industry are phenomenal and indisputable. Virtual microscopy improvements like these could help spur a new era in educational resources for up-and-coming doctors. DDx's can be done more efficiently and with more precision. Because of the increase in navigability, diagnostic errors could occur less frequently.

In the end, this is not just about slides, cells, and tissue samples. It’s also about saving lives more efficiently and producing an environment in which we can better educate medical students.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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