In the beginning, there was only 2D ultrasound…then “3D” was all the rage…before you knew it, mall kiosks were offering 4D ultrasounds…but now some hard working Duke students have developed IMAX style, pop-off-the screen, three-dimensional ultrasound imaging technology.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time it’s been made possible to display real-time stereo image pairs on a clinical scanner,” said Stephen Smith, a professor of biomedical engineering at Duke. “We believe all 3-D scanners could be modified in this way with only minor software changes.”
The new imaging capability can improve the early diagnosis of certain kinds of birth defects of the face and skull and improve surgeons’ depth perception during ultrasound-guided medical procedures, including tumor biopsies and robot-assisted surgeries done through tiny “keyhole” incisions.
The Duke team, which also includes Joanna Noble, an undergraduate student, and Matthew Fronheiser, a graduate student in Smith’s laboratory, reported the findings in an issue of the journal Ultrasonic Imaging dated July 2006, but published in April 2007. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
To demonstrate the new capability, the researchers first generated stereo ultrasound images of a small metal cage. They then advanced to ultrasound images in living animals of a heart valve and blood vessels and needle biopsies of the animals’ brains and esophagi.
The researchers have since recorded ultrasound images of a model human fetus that is traditionally used in the testing of fetal ultrasound imaging devices. (Watch the video, including paired images of both the cage and model fetus. See if you can fuse them without goggles.)
“Thousands of 3-D ultrasound systems in clinics could be upgraded with such new software, and stereoscopic goggles could be issued to them as well,” Smith said. “Keepsake DVDs of the fetal exam could also be viewed at home in 3-D stereo.”
The goggles would soon become obsolete, he added. New monitors capable of fusing stereo 3-D images without them are now in development.
All kidding aside, this is a brilliant idea. Now every parent with some extra spending cash will run to the mall to get their first IMAX style 3D images of junior. Still, we can’t help but wonder what Tom Cruise will have to say about this…
(hat tip: MD Buyline)