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Technology moves video to 3D as cadavers in the cloud become reality

3D helps doctors to diagnose illnesses or rebuild body parts

One day everyone could have a virtual twin body stored in cyberspace which would allow doctors to compare it to a patient’s actual body to help with diagnosing or treating illness, scientists have predicted. This is truly a step up from simple medics having onbody video cameras to communicate back from a disaster scene. It’s also a long way ahead from Medical TV, though with the use of iPads, using video to communicate with patients and nurses as they visit off site is still a valuable tool.

Technology already exists to be able to store high-resolution, three-dimensional copies of body organs and tissues. James Mah, a specialist in surgical imaging at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, states that some medical schools are already using virtual cadavers to perform training dissections using table-top screens. It certainly sounds interesting, but is it as good at the real thing?

Dr Mah says that the US military have also investigated storing 3D full-body scans of soldiers so that surgeons on the front line can compare the body of an injured soldier with their health virtual body which is stored on the internet.

Possibly full-sized virtual bodies could be used for making templates for replacement body parts. These could then be sent over the internet to a 3D printer situated near the battlefield.
“The idea is to image someone in their healthy state so that the data is available if it is needed at a later point. This has some military applications because we have soldiers who get injured and lose limbs and other tissues and it’s a challenge to reconstruct them.” Dr Mah says.
“The thinking is, if soldiers were imaged beforehand, it might be possible to at least provide a surgical template that could be printed in the field to facilitate surgical repair. That would be a great benefit in the field,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in San Jose, California.

Digital images merged from X-rays, MRI scans and CT scans to create 3D results

This development has come from being able to merge digital images and data from X-rays, MRI scans and CT scans. By merging the different scans of a patient, the complete 3D picture will be built. It can be shown on a full-sized screen which can be controlled as easily as a picture on a phone or tablet.

“It’s meant to be a life-sized person on a table,” Dr Mah told the conference. “We take two-dimensional data and process it into a three-dimensional, touch-sensitive display.”
“It allows a person to interact with it by touching it. If we want to see through it we can remove the different layers. At any point we can rotate it and zoom in to get deeper into the anatomy.”

The different layers of tissue can be removed, peeled away or sliced away by using a virtual scalpel. Medical students can perform virtual operations on the same body on several occasions without damaging a real cadaver.

The technology can be used in many other ways too, such as storing the various scans a patient has as a virtual body, which would be available in cyberspace for doctors or surgeons should they need them.

“Once you have three-dimensional data, the applications are almost endless,” Dr Mah states. “The obvious one is for education. Then there is the clinical use to preview the patient in advance for more detailed planning. With three-dimensional planning they can reduce the number of possible outcomes and so be more efficient in surgery.”

Circumventing the shortage of real cadavers is a big advantage for medical schools. “In terms of education, the access to human cadaver material has diminished over the years due to an increase in regulation and other factors. So, there is a void in medical education where in many countries there are no longer cadaver labs.” Dr Meh states. It may be something for the future, many organisations still struggle to use video to its full potential at the moment, but medical and patient education videos still win out over text based communications so one day 3D in the cloud will be with us.




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