While the term “X-ray” evokes pictures of bone scans, the imaging modality can be used for many other functions besides identifying a busted fibula.


X-ray devices have advanced to laser-sharp precision – able to study and manipulate matter at the atomic level – and have become so ubiquitous that a person can “accidentally” get themselves scanned, like the unwitting Norwegian tourist who fell asleep on a baggage belt at an airport in Rome. In medical settings, modern X-ray systems produce radiographic and fluoroscopic images of the human anatomy to diagnose and treat diseases and conditions that fall under the purview of various medical specialties, including endoscopy, urology, orthopedics, neurology, cardiology, and critical care.


“Most X-ray systems today no longer just take one X-ray picture at a time like the old days,” says Frank Shen, VP of product marketing at American Portwell Technology. “Various applications in the medical imaging field such as C-arm, CT scan, and MRI take multiple 2D image planes, which can be used to reconstruct 3D graphic images of a patient’s anatomy.”


Graphics enhancement software is used to process the thousands of 2D pictures generated by an X-ray system to create 3D models, which in some applications such as surgical navigation for vascular catheter or spinal screws are needed in real time, Shen says. The software is also used to display high-resolution 3D image details with different focus, angles, and positions based on the requirements of specific image diagnostics.


All of these graphical functions demand the type of tremendous image processing power provided by the Intel® HD Graphics 4000 engine supported in the 3rd-generation Intel® Core™ (codenamed Ivy Bridge) family. By integrating CPU processing and graphics on a single chip, the Ivy Bridge processor in combination with Intel® HD Graphics eliminates the need for additional discrete graphics hardware, thus accelerating graphics processing while enabling better energy efficiency, courtesy of the 22 nm process technology architecture. The latest-gen Intel® Core™ processor also ups the ante for computational performance in floating-point-intensive applications like medical imaging by supporting Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX), a 256-bit instruction set that supplies wider vectors and new extensible syntax for faster and more accurate operations.


Portwell utilized these and other Intel technologies in a recent application involving a C-arm digital fluoroscopy system (see Figure 1) from one of the leading vendors in the medical imaging market. Used to aid surgeons during cardiac, orthopedic, and urologic procedures, the system consists of a rotational C-arm – an X-ray generator with collimator controls, flat-panel image detector, CCD camera, and motor motion controls – and a workstation that provides the initial program and position settings, image processing and recording, and touch-panel display screen for control and data analysis.

Diagram_Portwell solution for X-ray System.JPGFigure 1: C-arm digital fluoroscopy system

The ROBO-8111VG2AR System Host Board (SHB) from Portwell serves as the heart of the workstation, using serial ports to control motion and receive images from the C-arm. Based on the 3rd generation Intel® Core™ or Xeon® processor on a LGA 1155 socket and Intel® C216 or Q77 Peripheral Control Hub chipset, the full-size PICMG 1.3 board shown in Figure 2 leverages the power of the Intel® HD Graphics 4000 engine and Intel® AVX to handle 3D image processing and enhancement, such as noise reduction and contrast and brightness adjustment. Processed images are visualized on flat-panel touch screens with an intuitive and easy-to-navigate user interface.

ROBO-8111VG2AR.jpgFigure 2: Portwell's ROBO-8111VG2AR System Host Board

Offering USB 3.0 with bandwidth up to 5 Gbps, the SHB reduces data transfer time and enables wired or wireless connectivity via dual Intel® Gigabit Ethernet LAN chips capable of supporting Intel® Active Management Technology 8.0. In addition to providing four SATA ports (two at 6 Gbps and two at 3 Gbps) and two serial ports (one RS-232 and one RS-232/422/485 selectable), the ROBO-8111VG2AR features two-channel DDR3 long DIMMs up to 16 GB, flexible combinations of PCI Express interfaces, optimized Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, and Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology. The system supports several display types, including DVI-I (DVI-D + VGA) on bracket and HDMI on board, and can run dual integrated displays simultaneously.


Besides addressing the performance requirements of the C-arm X-ray system, Portwell’s ROBO-8111VG2AR meets other goals important to the medical imaging market, including long life-cycle support of seven-plus years and a reliable architecture that enables ease of field service and reduces Mean Time To Repair. Furthermore, the socket compatibility of the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors eliminates the need for the medical system to be recertified, resulting in higher return on engineering investment.


The ROBO-8111VG2AR from Portwell is one of many Ivy Bridge-based COTS boards that target medical imaging and other graphics-intensive applications. Check out this video to hear more about Intel’s involvement in health IT for medical imaging, and browse through this collection of articles at Embedded Computing Design for ideas and info on how embedded technologies are used in medical applications.

To view other community content on health care applications, see “Top Picks - Medical.”


Jennifer Hesse

OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance


Portwell is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.