Sunday, February 17, 2008

Desperately Seeking Supraspinatus

It's 2 am, and you need just one more wahfer-thin image of, say, the supraspinatus for a 7 am lecture to your students. Who you gonna call?

Many of us would be lying if we didn't admit going to good old Google Images at a time like this. A search I did there today for "supraspinatus MR" brought up 640 hits, which is not too shabby. However, the first 40 hits also included a bowhunting site, a dogsledding blog and a site selling Mr. Muscle Oven Cleaner. Personally, I'm going to give a bit more credence to an image I find in a peer-reviewed radiology journal than one that turns up on a dogsledding blog. I'm just funny that way.

To address this issue of search credibility, at least 2 groups of radiologists have decided to look beyond Google and roll their own radiology search engines. Of these 2, my current personal fave is GoldMiner, a site hosted by the American Roentgen Ray Society. At the instant, this engine confines its searches to a pool of 172,488 radiology images from 227 peer-reviewed journals. A search here for "supraspinatus" yielded 681 hits. Filtering with an "MRI" pull-down menu narrowed this down to 344 hits, with a listing of image thumbnails and journal citations, all linked directly to the originating journals.

Another radiologist-built search engine is Yottalook, which currently provides search services for the Radiology Society of North America. According to its website, Yottalook
is a free radiology-centric web search engine based on Google's indexing technology with proprietary relevance algorithm
This engine has been designed to search online radiology sources only, and claims to place "over 500,000 images at your fingertip". A search on Yottalook for "supraspinatus" limited for images and MRI brought up 413 hits, with a linked list of image thumbs and citations similar to that of GoldMiner. An extra feature that GoldMiner doesn't have: cute little magnified popups of each image.

IMHO, one downside of Yottalook is that it also displays a half page of Google ads for non-image searches. My non-image supraspinatus search there presented me with an ad offering "100% Guaranteed" healing of my supraspinatus at home, and linked me to an "organic" $250 home ultrasound machine. I realize that Yottalook may have little control over what Google Ads puts on their site, but the display of a goofy (i.e. exaggerated, unsubstantiated and misleading) claim like that next to my search left me with a slightly dubious taste in my mouth for an otherwise fine search engine.

One final boon for the desperate: many journal websites now include a "PowerPoint Slide for Teaching" link next to each image. Fortunately, most of us are only occasionally desperate -- and then, just enough to need one or two extra slides for our talks. However, you, too, may someday suddenly be OMG-I've-gotta-give-conference-in-2-minutes-desperate. If so, you should know that it is possible to give an hour-long case conference with only a single slide (internet access, chutzpah and an extra, non-mirrored laptop screen not included). While the students are looking at the first case on one screen, find and download the next slide on an extra screen via GoldMiner or Yottalook. Repeat PRN.
Disclaimer: The Samurai Radiologist is a member of both the ARRS and the RSNA, and has hardly, hardly ever been desperate enough to download slides in real-time while simultaneously using them a lecture.

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