Respiratory imaging group

The imaging group is working on the use of medical imaging to improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with respiratory disease.


Scientific lead: Prof John Fleming

Prof Fleming is a clinical scientist working on the use of medical imaging to improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with respiratory disease.

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Advancing diagnoses and research

Imaging has a key role in modern medicine, both in diagnosis and treatment of disease. Images are typically interpreted by expert observers. The reliability and accuracy of these interpretations can be enhanced by computer analysis of the images.

Supporting Southampton's respiratory research

The group forms part of the unit's main resources, working with other groups within the unit in four key areas:

  • developing image analysis software and a research image data bank
  • discovering new imaging biomarkers for improving disease diagnosis and classification
  • following the progression of disease
  • evaluation of treatments.

Alongside dedicated imaging equipment, the team also work closely with the Trust’s radiology, nuclear medicine, medical physics and bioengineering departments.

Pharmaceutical and international collaborations

The group also has links with external organisations, in particular Air Liquide, Astra Zeneca, the University of Sydney and the International Society for Aerosols in Medicine.

Pioneering early work

The imaging group initially developed expertise in nuclear medicine, where imaging of a radioactive compound inside the body enables functions of the body to be studied.

The group was critical to evaluating inhalation therapy for diseases such as asthma, enabling researchers to see exactly where inhaled aerosols went within the lungs.

They achieved this through a pioneering 3D imaging technique, combining a technique called single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) conventional imaging of the lung structures.

New insights and techniques

This ‘radionuclide’ imaging work has now expanded to include 3D imaging of air-flow and blood-flow, and aerosol clearance in the lungs.

The group has also been developing the use of a technique called high resolution computed tomography (HRCT), which produces very detailed images of lung structure, and confocal microscopy, which gives images of the surface of the lung using a sensor introduced via a bronchoscope.

Setting standards

In each case, the group has focused on producing better guidelines for making these images and developing software to enhance the information generated from them. They aim to establish standard techniques for routine clinical diagnoses, and to use them in clinical research to help the development of new treatments.