By Tom Keppeler, Shoulder1 Staff
In the not-so-distant future, a doctor may be able to surf around your insides without so much as touching you.
A new technology known as "Virtual 3D Arthroscopy" may enable physicians to combine the results of Computerized Tomography (CT) Scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to create a navigable three-dimensional picture of joints, organs, and other body systems. The software would enable doctors to examine a patient without piercing their skin, and scientists expect it to eventually eliminate exploratory surgery.
"The pictures I've shown surgeons are of things they've not been able to see before without operating on the patient," Dr. Raleigh F. Johnson, Jr., director of the radiological science section and 3D imaging lab at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, told HealthScout News. He calls the technique "flying through" parts of the body. The technology can be applied to parts as small as the inner ear, or joints such as the shoulders, knees, or hips of a patient.
The pictures are a merged image created by CT scans and MRIs. Using special software, a doctor can take a series of pictures of the affected area, and then travel through them on a computer. Instead of using flat pictures with two-dimensional squares, like with X-rays, CT scans or MRI images, the software uses cube-like, three-dimensional pictures known as "voxels," to render the image. "When you put all those cubes together, you have a volume of sorts, versus just a flat surface," Dr. Gregory Wiet of Columbus, Ohio's Children's Hospital, told the news agency. "That's more realistic, because people are volumes essentially. They're three-dimensional objects, not just a flat surface."
Being able to explore a joint like the shoulder without cutting a patient presents a number of advantages: first, difficult-to-diagnose problems such as labral tears and SLAP lesions could be diagnosed far before a doctor performs surgery. However, the application may be more practical for smaller areas, since internal shoulder tears are often diagnosed and fixed in the same arthroscopic procedure. Time will tell if this real-life "Innerspace" will revolutionize diagnosis and treatment.
Image Courtesy of the Southern California Orthopedic Institute.
Last updated: 23-Feb-01
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