Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) is reporting that the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands has installed server and visualization systems from SGI in its hospital and research facility in Rotterdam. What’s more is that the medical center has developed a novel technology to translate 2D medical imagery into an interactive 3D display. Silicon Graphics provides the some info on its help in implementing the hospital’s innovative project:
Erasmus University Medical Center (Erasmus MC) has developed 3D volume rendering software, capable of converting 2D medical images to 3D. The software runs in an immersive, interactive environment called I-space, developed at Erasmus MC. For the commercial launch of the I-space model, the medical center selected Barco projectors and Silicon Graphics Prism™ visualization systems as image generators to create the four-sided, 3x3x3-metre, 3D world intended for multidisciplinary collaboration.
Because the prototype model at Erasmus MC surpassed even the highest expectations of researchers and clinicians, the medical center spun off a Rotterdam-based company, Crosslinks which is now beginning to market I-space to hospitals and medical centers throughout Europe in collaboration with SGI and Barco.
The original I-space at Erasmus MC was developed in close cooperation with medical staff that use the technology regularly for complex diagnoses. While I-space, in theory, could be used for various virtual reality applications the proprietary software is specifically targeted to the medical and biology fields.
“We chose the Silicon Graphics system for I-space because we needed hardware that was both suitable for high-performance computing and also delivered superb graphical capabilities,” said Ronald Nanninga, founder and managing director of Crosslinks. “There are eight graphics pipes in the system you are actually standing inside the data so we required a visualization computer that is powerful enough to really do the rendering of the 3D software in a very efficient way, and only SGI had the appropriate solution. When we began working on the development of I-space, we used an older SGI system, but with this brand new Prism, our performance really improved. Frame rate has gone up from 4 to 15, and that tells you something about how easy it is to move around large data sets, turn them around, and zoom in and zoom out. It’s easier to make a diagnosis together with other medical personnel when the surgical reality is right in front of you, rather than seeing it alone, just on a small computer screen…”
At Erasmus MC, I-space is used for two reasons: research and clinical diagnostics. The clinical application deals with medical visualization in 3D of different modalities such as MRI scans, CT scans, and ultrasound images. Doctors can walk through an MRI scan of a patient while discussing it with their colleagues. Multidisciplinary discussions are routine. For instance, for a patient with a brain tumor, the neurologist, with the neurosurgeon, are together in I-space and can decide what the best strategy is to remove the tumor from the brain. Or, for a person with a lung tumor, the thorax surgeon is there with the lung specialist, and they look to see where the tumor is positioned. Is it an area accessible to the thorax surgeon, and how can he most optimally approach the tumor? Are there large blood vessels going through the tumor? Is the tumor close to the heart? All of this has to be taken into account when removing a tumor.
Additional clinical applications include:
– Gynecology and Obstetrics. Children can be monitored during fetal development. En utero, Erasmus takes ultrasound images and projects them in 3D in I-space, where the complete fetus can be examined from all possible angles. Doctors monitor the shape of the face – Is there a cleft in the face? A cleft in the lip? and can actually count to make sure there are five fingers on each hand and five toes developing on each foot.
– Cardiac Infarction. If heart contractions are not occurring optimally due to temporary lack of oxygen cardiac infarction doctors can examine live, beating hearts within I-space to see which part of the heart is actually paralyzed due to what’s known in medical shorthand as “infarc.”
– Training doctors in 3D. To see where the particular organs are positioned in the body, in 3D, is an educational application of the I-space.
Exciting technology indeed. We wish something like this was available when we had to go through the dreadful neuroanatomy in medical school.
More in the press release…
The I-space homepage…
(hat tip: MTB Europe)