The emergence of open source software in image-guided interventions

June 14, 2010 by MassDevice

The emergence of open source software in image-guided interventions

By Andinet Enquobahrie

Image-guided intervention research focuses on the development of innovative technologies that replace traditional surgery and invasive procedures with minimally invasive techniques that incorporate medical imaging to guide the intervention. Patients prefer these procedures to open surgeries because they typically cause less trauma to the body and result in faster recovery times. Technological advancements in medical imaging, registration algorithms, visualization technologies and tracking systems are the driving forces behind increasing adoption of these procedures by physicians.

Software is an integral part of image-guided intervention systems. Whether for interfacing with a tracking device to collect position information from surgical instruments, registering intra-operative with pre-operative images, or generating a 3D visualization to provide visual feedback to the clinician, software plays a critical role. Historically, open source software has enjoyed great success in conventional low-risk applications. In recent years, open source software has made the transition into mission-critical applications, such as image-guided intervention systems.

Why open source reigns

Having an open platform in image-guided intervention systems increases the pace of research and discovery by promoting collaboration between clinicians, biomedical engineers and software developers. One highly successful open-source system is the Image-Guided Surgery Toolkit (IGSTK) [1][2]. IGSTK is an open-source platform for developing image-guided therapy systems written in C++. It is free for commercial and non-commercial use. It has been adopted for liver lesion ablation, lung tumor biopsy, and other procedures. The toolkit is an ongoing, collaborative effort between Kitware, an open source research company in Clifton Park, N.Y., and Dr. Kevin Cleary, director of the ISIS Laboratory at Georgetown University. IGSTK is the product of a series of STTR and R01 grants from the NIH that have spanned the past seven years. The toolkit is a powerful set of software components for rapid prototyping and developing image-guided surgery applications.