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How 3D Image Analysis Can Help Doctors

People tend to forget that biz tech spans beyond the consumer tech that we know today, namely 3D printing, VR, and so on. In other sectors, in this case medical, tech advances are not only disruptive, but also life-changing – literally.

We’re all familiar with medical technology like X-rays and ultrasounds; most of us have had an X-ray or an ultrasound scan at some point in our lives and it’s amazing how this tech gives us an insight into the insides of our bodies. Medical imaging is a rapidly-growing field and it’s expected to be worth almost $40 billion by 2019.

However, most imaging systems give us 2D representations of internal organs and babies (and skating fractures). While these images are useful and have helped medicine to come on in leaps and bounds, it’s in the realms of 3D that the next series of innovations will come along.

3D medical imaging analysis

A bigger slice of the pie

At present, 3D imaging and analysis is only a small part of the overall sector, but it’s doubled already in the first half of this decade and is expanding into new fields like dentistry, cardiology, obstetrics and oncology. More and more fields in medicine will be using 3D image analysis software from bitplane.com and similar companies to help us solve the mysteries of our insides.

With medical imaging, the display is a vital component and with many developers working on 3D volumetric displays, all our current fields will see great advances.

The MRI scan

A CT or MRI scan creates hundreds of images as it “slices” through body parts (in a good way). These images all need to be examined and reviewed one by one by radiologists and specialists, which can be very time-consuming, which adds to the worry and frustration of the patient.

With 3D tech and visualisation, the data can be viewed in real 3D, which not only speeds up the examination process, it also makes it safer as there’s less chance of eye and mental fatigue. Some 3D displays can render images with resolutions of 80,000 voxels (volumetric pixels), which is much higher than most 2D displays.

Imaris Bitplane 3D imaging example

photo credit: BitPlane.com

In surgery

Of course, we’re all roughly the same inside, but when it comes to complicated micro-surgery, the slight variations in the morphology of blood vessels, organs and ducts can make all the difference. If surgeons can get a good idea of what’s where (or what shouldn’t be there if it’s a tumour) before even scrubbing up, then operations will be more efficient and safer.

Currently surgeons have to visualise the 3D from 2D composites and while they’re good at this, it’s still not 100%. It’s also very stressful and when the unexpected is encountered, delays often happen, all while the patient is there on the table.

In telemedicine

No single hospital has the space, time or manpower to be a world leader in every specialism, or in every branch of research. Bringing the world’s leading minds and techniques into the same room at the same time is where 3D imaging will really come into its own.

If medical data and images can be viewed in several locations at once, then it’s easy to see how unusual cases can be reviewed, or emergency surgery can be performed with remote guidance. This has great implications for battlefield surgery, or for surgeons working in under-funded or Third World areas. It also makes life easier for injured or seriously ill patients as they won’t need to be moved to the specialists – they can be assessed and diagnosed from anywhere in the world.

It’s looking more and more like the future we all hoped for.

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