Research on Multi-core DSP in OCT Medical Imaging

The principle of OCT imaging is similar to that of ultrasound. It uses reflected near-infrared rays as an imaging medium to form an image instead of using reflected sound waves. The source of near infrared (generally 800 ~ 1300nm) is divided into two ways, one of which is used for tissue sampling; the other is used for reference mirror. When the sampling arm scans through the tissue, an interferometer can be used to continuously block the reflection from the rear end of the sampling tissue with the light of the reference arm. For continuously blocked light, a digital signal processing algorithm is executed to achieve an axial scan with deep resolution. Stack these scans on top of each other to form a 2D or 3D tissue image.

Application of OCT in biomedicine

Today, OCT medical systems are mostly used in ophthalmology, however, several emerging applications have emerged in the past few years. For example, otolaryngologists and pediatricians also use OCT technology as a diagnostic tool. In general, physicians use otoscopes to check the ears, external ear canal, and tympanic membrane for bacterial infection and redness. OCT can use the imaging of the epidermis and subcutaneous membrane to determine whether it is infected with pathogenic bacteria and improve the accuracy of diagnosis. After taking antibiotics several times, the OCT system can be used to analyze whether the antibiotics are working. If the infected biofilm has been removed, the patient can stop taking antibiotics.

Other emerging OCT medical applications include dental diagnostic systems and the use of interdisciplinary surgical techniques. For example, dentists can use OCT imaging to determine X-rays and early caries and certain gum diseases that cannot be detected by visual inspection in order to take more effective preventive measures.

In terms of interdisciplinary surgery, OCT can analyze the presence or absence of cancer cells during surgery to remove tumors. Generally speaking, when a surgeon removes the tissue around the tumor, he always hopes to remove all the cancer cells. The cleared tumor and surrounding tissue will be sent to the pathology laboratory for a week of analysis to make a written report after the operation. Since the OCT images have the same resolution in histology / pathology applications, the OCT system in the operating room allows the surgeon to accurately know how much tissue needs to be removed and how many safety margins are left during the operation. Such an approach will not mistakenly remove tissue that has not been infected with cancer, thus saving the cost and pain of subsequent surgery. OCT technology allows doctors to see images in real time at a histological resolution level, so that they can make better decisions during the first surgery to remove tumors.

There will be more medical applications using OCT technology in the future. For example, OCT can be used with puncture slices to remove small tumors at an early stage. For patients suffering from breast cancer, OCT can be used with visual and "intelligent" signal processing technology to guide the insertion of fine needles to the precise tumor location to identify suspected infected tissues and minimize the invasiveness of the surgery. For patients with cardiovascular disease, OCT can be used with very small catheter stents to more accurately find intravascular stents or check plaque deposition. In these types of applications, advanced digital signal processing technology can not only achieve excellent image quality, but also perform tissue classification.

Improved signal processing performance

When OCT was first introduced as a medical imaging application, the system used was a personal computer (PC) platform. The second-generation system has been modified, and the third-generation system currently under development will also change. Some OCT system manufacturers have or will soon adopt an embedded processing platform equipped with a single or multi-core digital signal processor (DSP) instead of the general-purpose processor (GPP) used in personal computers.

Compared with traditional computing methods, the DSP's power consumption per milliwatt can be stronger, which means that programmable algorithms can be used to obtain accurate results without the need for expensive power supplies and heat sinks . DSPSoC enables powerful signal processors to coexist with system application processors with appropriate interfaces for data processing, memory, and storage, allowing designers to reduce system size and reduce power consumption.

Using the DSP platform can reduce the physical size of the system and reduce power consumption, so a battery-powered portable OCT system will be available in the near future. Like the portable ultrasound system, the portable OCT system will help this technology be widely adopted by many clinics and doctors' clinics. In addition, for medical and emergency personnel dealing with natural disasters or accidents, the portable OCT system will become an effective diagnostic tool for fixed-point care.

Future trends

In the future trend of next-generation OCT medical imaging technology, more powerful multi-core DSPs will be deployed to shorten imaging time and improve image resolution. The software algorithm for processing OCT images is currently in the development stage. A technique called polarization-sensitive OCT (PS-OCT) can use processing algorithms to polarize optical signals to produce images with higher visual contrast. High-resolution images can present small holes or tiny nodules and tumors in dental caries.

Another future OCT application is to examine extremely small blood vessels in the eye. OCT can use Doppler imaging technology to draw blood flow maps and estimate blood flow velocity. The principle is similar to ultrasound, but the resolution is higher, and diabetes and some eye diseases can be diagnosed early. The programmable DSP architecture can provide an accurate and extensible platform for signal processing applications, thus helping the development and rapid deployment of such new algorithms.

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