By James Alexander
3D Imaging dominates many fields. The computer science, entertainment, medical industries, and various consumer applications. Machine vision systems powered by 3D Imaging technology allow hard-to-see components at construction and manufacturing sites to be inspected faster with more accurate results. Consumers are enjoying media with greater image depth. And medical professionals are able to view the human body in ways that resembled science fiction just a few years ago.
Doctors and specialists can now diagnose, monitor, and treat medical conditions that have long remained elusive. Improving access to the patient’s body, increasing the precision and accuracy of the results, and dramatically reducing costs along the healthcare pathway.
So, what’s next for medical imaging? How is the industry pushing the boundaries of innovation in 3D Imaging? We have identified four key ways that engineers are pushing the field of medical imaging into the future:
- Increased processing speeds
- Expanded 3D and 4D framework
- Image capture technologies
- Workflow automation
Increased processing speeds
Accelerating processing speed of diagnostic images
In recent years, it would take several hours for a 3D workstation to complete a 3D image. With key advances in computer science, results can be generated in just a matter of minutes. Most modern 3D imaging workstations now ship with patient modeling software that allows for virtual planning, including preoperative assessment, tool positioning, navigation, and additional conveniences that were difficult to obtain prior to modern advances. Technicians can now conduct 3D Imaging using a variety of modalities, including CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), PET (positron emission tomography), and Us (ultrasonography) among other diagnostic options. The titan of the field remains CT data, yielding unparalleled image quality. CT images have become the most widely used source of imaging data for navigation and 3D simulation.
Many technicians are aware of the struggles of a poorly sourced 2D source image. There are currently no manipulation software that will improve a poorly captured 2D image, which makes modern improvements in CT imaging and 3D visualization a key advancement, which include scanning and imaging reconstruction techniques, contrast-enhanced results, and emerging adoption of navigation that relies on virtual reality simulation.
None of this is possible without dramatic advances in processing speeds. The processors that power these workstations are essential in creating diagnostic images with incredible definition. Which is why engineers are improving the way these machines work. Relying on GPUs (graphic processing units) that are widely used in video games and software development to provide power where it’s needed most. These gaming GPUs can compute complex algorithms and reconstruct images in just seven minutes.
By comparison, the modern CPU can take as long as 45 minutes to render that same image. More efficient processing means better imaging, a faster workflow, and increased throughput for imaging centers, which translates into a shorter return on investment.
Expanded 3D framework
3D technology applications are poised to revolutionize images in radiology.
Advances in 3D have increased the visibility of soft tissue along with decreased visibility of potential foreign artifacts when compared against more traditional imaging from CT scans. Improvements that provide high definition 3D reconstructions and are decidedly improved over traditional 2D imaging. Now, engineers are pushing to reduce image noise and provide correction for potential patient motion during the scanning process.
3D modeling, which puts printed models into the hands of healthcare providers, is another rapid development occurring in the medical imaging field. Medical professionals can download 3D STL files on various medical 3D printing sites and print anatomical models for their own use, garnering insights that can only be gained from handling a printed visualization of an organ or pathology leading up to surgery.
Image capture technologies
Engineers have long been innovating fresh solutions for both critical care and point-of-care while supporting traditional systems in radiology departments. Fast and accurate on-the-spot medical imaging gives surgeons, physicians, and care centers crucial tools in providing patients better care at a lower cost.
Offices practicing in orthopedics and sports medicines can capture fast and accurate on-the-spot imaging without needing to outsource the job. This provides practices with increased revenue through an “in-house” supplemental income stream that will improve efficiency and play a key role in how patients view their experience, resulting in improved satisfaction.
A point-of-care image system also reduces a variety of risks that are associated with needing to move a patient from Point A to Point B. Eliminating the need to transport a patient from intensive care to a CT scan suite. These solutions also offer a path toward high-definition imaging in the operating room, leading to an enhanced patient experience and improved patient care. Making point-of–care-imaging a priority for engineers.
As generational groups like baby boomers grow older, demand for fast efficient healthcare rises. That need directly impacts the number of doctors and medical professionals that require medical imaging results to proceed with diagnoses. Yet the number of on-site staff at many medical centers are remaining the same, making it difficult for the technicians to keep pace. Engineers see automation as a groundbreaking tool in the face of this exploding demand that can reduce strain on the operator and decrease any possible scanning errors.
Automation becomes very important with procedures involving ob-gyn and cardio that leave no room for error. Ultrasounds, for example, rely completely on the operator. Deploying traditional Doppler Image of patient blood flow, utilizing proper angling, which takes time and results in a slower workflow. In comparison, measurements provided by AI–assisted imaging technology decrease the number of actions on the operator’s end and are completely angle–independent.
Currently, orthopedic and sports medicine physicians must input as many as seven clicks per scan to calculate alignment. Engineers are exploring algorithms that can automate these calculations, thereby reducing the number of input actions required, lessening the burden on the doctors.
Better images across the patient care pathway to help improve diagnostics
With this glimpse into the future of 3D Medical Imaging, it’s clear that engineers around the world are laser–focused on developing and applying superior technology to help doctors and medical professionals improve access, increase precision, and decrease costs along the healthcare pathway.