A new programme under development uses Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and scanned images to build a 3D model of an affected organ so as to assist doctors and surgeons carry out diagnosis, surgical planning and treatment.

True 3D Visualisation Soon to Assist Surgeons in the Operating Theatre

California-based EchoPixel is currently perfecting new technology which could make a substantial contribution to medical diagnostics. The so-called “3D” technology in widespread use today by doctors to help process information, particularly prior to surgical operations, is not actually 3D in the strict sense of the term. This technology in fact provides images generated by computer programmes in two dimensions but with an added 3D effect that improves the general precision of the image. However, EchoPixel’s technology, which the company is calling True 3D, goes further by combining the various techniques already in use in order to create a holographic model in three dimensions, thus allowing physicians to carry out their analysis on what is virtually a physical object.


Virtual holography


“Medical images, whether produced by MRI, ultrasound or X-rays, are all 2D shots of 3D objects. But having to interpret these images involves mental spatial calculations that often result in a loss of clinical information,” explained Sergio Aguirre, founder and CTO of EchoPixel. The company has developed a programme which enables a holographic model to be created which can help doctors do their job more efficiently. EchoPixel is partnering with zSpace, a leading-edge technology provider that enables natural interaction with virtual-holographic 3D imagery (bit.ly/1d21UFZ), to recreate an interactive organ in three dimensions. Doctors will be able not only to observe any inflammation on the external surface of the organ, but also open it up and look inside. In the operating theatre this could help reduce unnecessary explorations to a strict minimum as the surgeon will be able to target accurately the areas s/he needs to treat.


A wide field of application

Virtual holography is another step along the path set by modelling programmes that are already in use in hospitals. It should represent a real leap forward both as regards treatment of patients and in streamlining the workload of medical staff. However it should be noted that the programme only works to maximum effect when using images that are updated on a regular basis. The size of a tumour can change dramatically in a very short period of time and in addition constant movement in areas such as the stomach makes it very difficult to obtain a precise image. In fact one of the most promising areas of use for True 3D might well be in medical training. Holographic dissection of a living organ will enable students to interact directly with the workings of the human body, without any danger to patients. This technology is still undergoing development, but there can be little doubt that it will be extremely useful.

By Quentin Capelle