Body parts floating in 3D space to give medicine virtual shape
3D Imaging (Reuters Youtube)

New imaging technology that processes hundreds of medical scans to generate a perfect virtual 3D model of the human body will allow doctors to more accurately diagnose disease and prepare for complex surgical procedures, according to its developers.  

     "What our software is doing is taking advantage of that data and presenting it in a format where they can actually see the body parts from that data and interact with them in a three dimensional space," said Sergio Aguirre of California startup Echopixel adding that doctor's can peel away virtual layers and examine tissue and organs deep within the body. 

    In clinical trials using the technology, surgeons were able to more effectively correct congenital heart defects in newborns while dramatically decreasing the amount of time it took to prepare for the procedures.  

    Using a specialized monitor and glasses developed by Silicon Valley startup ZSpace to run the software, the virtual 3D image allowed surgeons to visualize tiny blood vessels and practice their surgery before ever stepping foot in an operating room. 

    "These vessels are sub-millimeter and the newborn patient is the size of your hand. So they basically get imaged and we use our software to help the doctor to understand the curvature of the vessels, to follow the vessels all the way through the lungs and determine which vessels need to be surgically repaired," said Aguirre.  

    Dr. Louis Wexler of Stanford University has been at the forefront of medical imaging for more than half a century. He says this technology's ability to transform hundreds of 2 dimensional images into an interactive 3D model is a game changer. 

    "It is going to be a tremendously useful tool for the surgeon. Some surgeons are very good at looking at X-RAY images, CT images, MR and imagining what that looks like in the body. This shows them exactly what it looks like in the body," said Wexler. 

    The technology will save time and improve accuracy of medical procedures, according to Wexler, which will ultimately translate into saving patients money and giving them access to better medical care.  

    "To see an object inside the body, identify it and lift it out of the body was pretty exciting. But that isn't enough. One has to begin to think about how is that going to help in your clinical evaluation of something." 

    To that end, Echopixel is aggressively pursuing more trials. The company was given FDA clearance to provide the system as a diagnostic and surgical planning tool earlier this year.