Sunday, August 10, 2008

3D Images a Click Away

Researchers at the Veterans Administration are expanding the use of 3D imaging software so that physicians can have a virtual roadmap of a patient’s anatomy. An article appearing in the July/August 2008 newsletter issue of the “VA Research Currents R&D” discusses how Roy Soetikno, MD, a gastroenterologist and researcher at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine, is looking to greatly expand the use of this technology. He has helped to spearhead a new program at the Palo Alto VA called the “Collaborative Imaging Initiative” that may serve as a model for other VA sites and possibly for medical practices outside of the VA.

Currently doctors typically depend on radiology specialists to create and show them 3D images based on CT or other scans on high end imaging workstations. Since doctors are unable to view the images on their own computers, they need to study the images and essentially memorize them. Dr Soetikno envisions a system where doctors won’t have to memorize the images but have a system that works like a futuristic 3D GPS map.

The system at Palo Alto relies on low cost software and hardware. Computers are linked together via an existing data network and physicians are able to view the images on any computer in the secure VA network. The software also provides for real-time web-based videoconferencing where a medical team, the patient, and family members can all look together at the same 3D image and manipulate the view in any number of ways as they discuss treatment options.

The system also enables any physician with an Apple computer to not only view 3D images but also to create or customize them independently. One click can render a set of two-dimensional images into a 3D image.

Dr. Soetikno hopes that the system can be replicated through the VA system and even meshed with the VA’s electronic medical record system. He stresses that doctors with the ability to use the 3D system could really help improve care for rural veterans.