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Robotic imaging could soon save you from cramped CT scan tubes

Currently in use on horses at the University of Pennsylvania, better CT scan technology could soon come to the rescue of claustrophobic humans in need.

Cameras on two robotic arms scan the horse while it's awake.
Penn Vet

If you're afraid of cramped spaces, the prospect of needing a CT scan and holding still after lying down in a long metal tube is a nightmarish one. But technology currently in use on horses at the University of Pennsylvania could soon make the process much easier.

The new tech -- called Equimagine -- uses cameras on two robotic arms to generate high-quality images and allows for the horse to be standing while it works, according to Penn Vet. It even compensates for some small movement. For horses, that means they don't have to get anesthesia and can get scanned while standing naturally, leading to a much shorter recovery time.

The tech was first unveiled last spring at the university and is just now spreading into the market. The machine costs $545,000, though the company behind it -- New York's 4DDI -- is also selling it on a pay-as-you-scan basis. The same company's also developing the tech for smaller animals and will hopefully bring it to humans before too long.

Aside from claustrophobic patients, the tech could make CT scans easier on children and allow better, standing images for patients with spinal ailments.