April 2019 | Aibreán 2019

CT Scan Simulator Wins Major European Award

Mon, 22 April 19 12:52

From Student Research to International Research Collaboration

Our colleagues in UCD Radiography & Diagnostic Imaging report an excellent example of the continuum of research which extends from undergraduate student research through to international research collaboration.

Under the direction of Dr John Stowe, the UCD group have been developing a Computed Tomography (CT) scan parameter simulator over the last number of years.  Commencing in 2016, the group developed a tool in conjunction with the University of Bergen (now Western Norway University of Applied Sciences) who carried out 6,600 Computed Tomography acquisitions on phantoms in accordance with a UCD experimental design.  Summer Student Research Award (SSRA) 2016 student, Ms Rachel Healy (UCD BSc in Radiography 2017) analysed all the images and collated a table of measurements that could be used in conjunction with the images.

From this dataset, Dr John Stowe then built a web-based tool to allow students to experiment with adjusting the scan parameters so they could see and measure the impact of adjusting the scan parameters (e.g. dose and image quality perspectives). The tool itself was successfully presented by Ms Healy at European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in 2017. 

Following a period of testing and refinement, the UCD Radiography & Diangostic Imaging Group hosted the Optimax Summer Research School here in UCD in Summer 2018 and had a group of international radiography students test its effectiveness in a structured self-directed learning exercise in a research project headed by Dr Stowe and Mr Carst Buissink from Hanze  University of Applied Science, Netherlands.  Following the statistically significant positive results from the summer pilot, the UCD group then took it to the next level by testing its use (with volunteer radiography student support) at the end of a CT module where again it demonstrated a statistically significant uplift in knowledge and understanding scores. 

This Summer pilot and the Semester 1 live tests were submitted as two separate abstracts to the European Congress of Radiology in March 2019 in Vienna and were both accepted for presentation. The first paper won one of three prestigious "Best Radiography Paper Abstract" awards from over 700 submissions.  The paper entitled ‘Impact of a CT scan simulator on student learning’ was presented by Mr Gregory Photopoulos, a Canadian radiography student from Dalhousie University who participated in our international Optimax summer research team.  Gregory was elected by the research team to present the work at ECR 2019. The second abstract was presented by another team member, Ms Caoimhe O'Halloran (Stage 3 UCD Radiography) who continued the work into the semester 1 module live testing.

Reflecting on the success of this initiative, Dr Stowe noted that this is an excellent example of how collaborative research within UCD can draw on the opportunities afforded in our undergraduate student research and our international research collaborations to excellent effect that can impact upon clinical practice.

“This collaborative research from SSRA through School research and the UCD Optimax Summer Research School implemented in through technology-enhanced learning is a fantastic journey that leveraged all the UCD School of Medicine has to offer. We actually deliver the simulator and questionnaires through the new Brightspace module portal too.  We now use this tool at undergraduate and postgraduate level and have shared this UCD-originated education technology through Creative Commons licensing with Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, UK, Netherlands and Chile to date.”

Given its increasing prevalence as an imaging modality of choice, CT represents a significant contributor to the public’s radiation dose exposure.  It is essential that radiographers have the necessary skills and understanding of scan parameters to ensure best image quality at the lowest possible dose.  This research demonstrates the impact of a simulation study tool to impact upon radiographer learning by better understanding CT scan parameters, patient dose and image quality.  It also demonstrates the continuum from undergraduate student research through to international research collaboration with potential to impact on clinical practice on a global scale.