July 9 - London medical students are learning about human anatomy with a digital scanning table which creates virtual cadavers in 3D. The table uses a combination of graphics and computed tomography (CT) scans to replicate a real body, allowing students and surgeons to see what's beneath the skin before they make their first incision. Jim Drury has the story.
Human dissection with a difference. The Anatomage table creates 3D virtual human bodies, by combining graphics and real CT scans. With cadaver donations failing to keep pace with an expansion of medical schools, students face difficulties in learning the craft of surgery. The Anatomage is the answer, says Dr Philip Pratt, research fellow at Imperial College, which owns the only such appliance in Europe. SOUNDBITE (English) PHILIP PRATT, RESEARCH FELLOW AT IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON, SAYING: "Unlike a traditional way of viewing a medical image where you see a slice through that scan and you can move the slice backwards and forwards, you don't really get to see things in 3D, this allows you to see everything at once, to see all of the structure and then you can move around and view it from any angle." Users interact with the table either via touch, like a giant iPad, or a traditional mouse. The body is stripped back layer by layer to expose internal organs while individual areas can be rotated and enlarged. Surgeon Aimee di Marco teaches surgical procedure and says the Anatomage has distinct advantages over real dissection. SOUNDBITE (English) AIMEE DI MARCO, SURGEON AND CLINICAL RESEARCH FELLOW AT IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON, SAYING: "Once one has dissected a particular area that's really, that's it. You can only do it once and you can't reproduce that exact dissection of the individual cadaver. That's got particular implications for less skilled and newer students who may cut through a nerve that they wanted to see and they can't then go back, whereas with this kind of technology you can just reproduce again and again what you want to see." It's not just students who are benefiting. Real scans of patients' organs are being viewed before and during operations, allowing doctors to know exactly what to expect under the skin before making incisions. SOUNDBITE (English) AIMEE DI MARCO, SURGEON AND CLINICAL RESEARCH FELLOW AT IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON, SAYING: "During the operation there is scope for using this technology fused with minimally-invasive, that's with keyhole and robotic surgery." The table holds up to a terabyte of memory, equivalent to 1,000 patient cases. Other teaching hospitals have expressed interest in the table, believing it will add greatly to the medical world's body of knowledge. Jim Drury, Reuters