Software that allows doctors to probe and manipulate a virtual depiction of their patients floating in 3D space could lead to more accurate and efficient medical procedures from screenings to the operating room, according to developers. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: This is a perfect depiction of a human colon is floating in mid-air as a doctor examines it. California start-up Echopixel says the software at the core of this new imaging technology can process hundreds of medical scans to generate a perfect virtual 3D model of the human body. SOUNDBITE (English) SERGIO AGUIRRE, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, ECHOPIXEL, SAYING: "And so 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." Doctors peel away virtual layers so they can examine tissue and organs deep within the body. In clinical trials surgeons were able to more effectively correct congenital heart defects in newborns while dramatically decreasing the amount of time it took to prepare for procedures. Using a specialized monitor and glasses, the virtual 3D image allowed surgeons to visualize tiny blood vessels and practice their surgery before stepping foot in the operating room. SOUNDBITE (English) SERGIO AGUIRRE, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, ECHOPIXEL, SAYING: "These vessels are sub-millimeter and the newborn patient is the size of your hand. So they basically get images 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." Dr. Louis Wexler of Stanford University has been at the forefront of medical imaging for more than half a century. SOUNDBITE (English) LOUIS WEXLER, DIAGNOSTIC RADIOLOGIST, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "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." This promises to save time and improve the accuracy of medical procedures, while saving patients' money and helping them access better medical care. SOUNDBITE (English) LOUIS WEXLER, DIAGNOSTIC RADIOLOGIST, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "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.