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Abdominal Imaging and Intervention | Research

Tumor Ablation | CT Colonography | Abdominal/Pelvic MRI | Low Dose CT Protocols | Advanced CT Imaging | Gynecologic Imaging

Abdominal Imaging and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin has a long history of successful NIH and private grant funding. In the past decade we have been awarded over $23,000,000 dollars from federal and private sources to support our research programs. We currently have NIH R01 grants in tumor ablation, CT colonography, molecular diapeutics, and liver imaging.

The section works closely with the largest medical physics department in the country, and we are home to two active research laboratories: Molecular Diapeutics (Jamey Weichert, PhD) and Tumor Ablation (Christopher Brace, PhD). Both of these labs have extensive NIH and private funding, and each has been the birthplace of a UW-Madison spin-off company (Novelos, Inc., and NeuWave Medical, Inc.). Scott Reeder, MD, PhD leads the multidisciplinary Liver Imaging Research Program (LIRP), a federally funded group which is focused on the imaging of focal and non-focal liver diseases. This program combines the talents of radiologists, hepatologists, medical physicists, and transplant surgeons, and has an impressive track record of publication and extramural funding.

The Abdominal Imaging and Intervention Section employs multiple nurse-clinicians to support both the clinical and research endeavors of the virtual colonoscopy, tumor ablation, image-guided procedures, and cancer imaging programs. A $32,000,000 strategic alliance with GE Medical provides the latest software and hardware advances for use by section members, and our section is actively involved with research to improve and advance imaging science through collaborative relationships with multiple local and national/international biotechnology companies.

Research Programs

The Abdominal Imaging and Intervention Section supports several nationally- and internationally- recognized research programs, including: 

Tumor Ablation

Dr. Ziemlewicz surrounded by a large group of onlookers around a monitor
Dr. Tim Ziemlewicz leads a master class in tumor ablation. UW-Madison is the primary educational site for NeuWave Medical (Johnson and Johnson, Inc.) due to the basic science and birth of the company, both of which came from the Tumor Ablation Laboratory.

Members of the Abdominal Imaging and Intervention Section were early pioneers in the development of tumor ablation devices and techniques that are now in widespread use worldwide. For example, percutaneous cryoablation was first systematically explored in this laboratory by Drs. Fred T. Lee Jr and Peter Littrup (Wayne State University). The multiple probe RF system manufactured by Covidien, Inc. (Switching ControllerTM, Covidien, Boulder, CO) was invented at UW and subsequently licensed to Covidien. This device is now in widespread use worldwide. The technology behind the microwave ablation system Certus140™ (NeuWave Medical, Madison WI) was also invented in the tumor ablation laboratory. The tumor ablation program is a true bench-to-bedside model which includes a pre-clinical laboratory for device development and testing under the direction of Christopher Brace, PhD, and an active clinical research program. Clinical and research collaborators include Drs. Fred T. Lee Jr, J. Louis Hinshaw, Meghan Lubner, Tim Ziemlewicz, Shane Wells, and Paul Laeseke. The program has had several firsts. Dr. Hinshaw was the first person in the world to perform clinical cases with the Switching ControllerTM as well as the Certus 140TM, Dr. Lubner was the first to use the NeuWave PR probe, and Dr. Ziemlewicz was the first to use the Certus 140TM in the lung. Other highlights of the ablation program include multiple inventions in clinical use today, more than 20 published and pending patents, a highly successful grant program yielding more than $10 million in total, more than 200 scientific publications and innumerable scientific and invited presentations, and the birth of NeuWave Medical, Inc., a UW-Madison spin off company that produces a state-of-the-art high-powered gas-cooled microwave ablation device. In April 2016, NeuWave was acquired by Johnson and Johnson, Inc.

Members of the tumor ablation laboratory are currently collaborating with Histosonics, Inc., and the University of Michigan on robotically assisted sonic therapy (RAST). RAST is based on histotripsy, a non-thermal, noninvasive ultrasound-based ablation modality that is in preclinical use. RAST is unique in that it uses cavitation rather than heat to destroy tissue, and is completely non-invasive.

Learn more about tumor ablation research at UW

CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy)

The University of Wisconsin has the world's most extensive clinical and research experience in CT colonography (CTC, also known as virtual colonoscopy). Under the leadership of Drs. Perry Pickhardt and David Kim, this program has performed over 10,000 cases, and has produced more than 200 related scientific publications (including two landmark NEJM articles), a reference textbook, and over $5 M in NIH grants. The CTC program has been featured in a wide array of news sources including The Today Show, The McNeil-Lehrer NewsHour (PBS), Big Ten Network, CBS/NBC/ABC evening news, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and others. The UW CTC program even garnered a spot on Saturday Night Livewatch the clip! Drs. Pickhardt and Kim continue to work towards Medicare and national third-party coverage for CTC screening.

Polyp Imaging

Abdominal/Pelvic MRI

4D flow MRI
4D Flow MRI

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a recognized world leader in the development, validation and clinical implementation of advanced methods for abdominal MRI. The group is well known for pioneering work in quantitative biomarkers of liver fat and iron overload and for work in 4D flow MRI methods to evaluate complex flow patterns in the abdominal vasculature. The group works closely with the UW MR Physics Group and GE Healthcare on the development and translation of pioneering imaging methods aimed at evaluating abdominal diseases. The MRI group has over $5 million in NIH-funded projects and over 100 peer-reviewed publications aimed specifically at improved abdominal and pelvic imaging. Clinical services include a wide range of imaging protocols including advanced liver MRI and MRCP, quantitative imaging of fat, iron, and fibrosis, quantitative flow measurements in the abdominal vasculature, and MR enterography for patients with Crohn's disease, among others.

Low Dose CT Protocols

CT protocol team
CT Protocol Team

Under the leadership of Dr. Myron Pozniak, the Abdominal Imaging Section has spent several years refining CT protocols with the intent of lowering radiation exposure while maintaining image quality. In a partnership with the Department of Medical Physics, GE Medical has now licensed the UW CT protocols for world-wide distribution on its newest scanners.

Learn more about the CT Protocol project.

Advanced CT Imaging

Kari Pulfer, Dr. Meghan Lubner, and Stephanie Wilson
Kari Pulfer, Dr. Meghan Lubner, and Research Specialist Stephanie Wilson discuss CT settings

The CT research program at UW-Madison is actively engaged in projects on advanced CT data acquisition methods, advanced CT image reconstruction and post processing methods, and translational research to bring cutting-edge CT technologies into clinical practice. Under the direction of Drs. Meghan Lubner and Guang-Hong Chen, the CT program features extensive collaboration among medical physicists, radiologists, and industrial engineers from the UW Departments of Medical Physicsexternal link and Radiology, and GE Healthcare. The CT research program is well equipped with state-of-the-art GE CT 750 HD scanners with advanced tools including gemstone/dual energy and high resolution imaging, preclinical CT scanners, and other advanced experimental equipment to enable research at both basic science and clinical levels. The group has published extensively in almost all aspects in CT research with more than 100 scientific publications and attracted more than $10 million in research funding from both NIH and industry. Recently, the group has done pioneering work in dose reduction by creating a novel iterative reconstruction algorithm termed Prior Image Constrained Compressed Sensing (PICCS). This technique is currently being prospectively evaluated and the dose reduction project recently received a $1.8 million grant from the NIH. Other clinical research interests include novel applications of dual energy CT, CT perfusion, and advanced 3D post processing techniques. Clinical services include a wide range of imaging protocols including non-contrast applications such as renal stone studies or CT colonography as well as routine and advanced multiphasic post-contrast imaging including CT angiographic/high resolution techniques such as the abdominal wall flap protocol used in patients prior to breast reconstruction.

Gynecologic Imaging

4-quadrant image with examples from gynecologic imaging

One of our missions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is to elevate the care of women with gynecologic cancers. Our multidisciplinary team of radiologists, gynecologic oncologic surgeons, pathologists and radiation oncologists work closely together to provide state of the art imaging and cancer care to women throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Our center is not only a referral for gynecologic cancer surgery and radiation treatment, but has become one of the first sites in the country to provide pre-surgical MR imaging to determine the need for lymphadenectomy in women with endometrial cancer, and MRI-guided brachytherapy to cervical cancer patients to increase the radiation dose at the tumor site while diminishing the dose to adjacent organs. Our gynecologic imaging team, which includes Drs. Elizabeth Sadowski, Jessica Robbins, Mark Kliewer and Fred Kelcz, also collaborates with our world-renowned Departments of Medical Physicsexternal link and Biomedical Engineeringexternal link on projects aimed at assessing the role oxygen plays in the prognosis and treatment of cervical cancer. This concept has also been extended to new applications of MR-PET in gynecologic cancer in collaboration with other academic imaging centers across the country. This collaborative approach to caring for women aimes to improve the prognosis of women with gynecologic cancers, not only in Wisconsin, but across the nation.

Learn more about research interests of individual faculty members.


Last updated: 2/15/2018
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