A new radiology visualization platform, called Plato’s Cave, has been implemented at The Methodist Hospital in Houston. The engineers and clinicians have pulled expertise from a number of companies in the industry to develop a system that can be utilized for advanced radiology readings or as a technology to perform preoperative surgical planning for advanced cases, such as intracranial aneurysms or facial surgery. The system uses a projector to display images on a screen and specialized glasses to show them in three dimensions. The physician can use a traditional video game controller to navigate through the volumetric visualization.
In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” prisoners saw shadows on a cave wall as reality and blindly accepted it as fact. One day, a prisoner escaped and actually saw the outside world; thus, his experience gave him a more expansive view of reality. Butler calls his venture “Plato’s Cave” because this new visual approach to medicine opens up a whole new world for physicians and patients.
Currently, radiation oncologists have limited views of individual slices of the body. However, with this technology, physicians can see inside a patient’s body. By using “Plato’s Cave,” these physicians can maneuver around organs in all directions, allowing them to see more clearly how radiation is deposited around tumors, adjacent organs, arteries, veins, and lymphatics.
“Previously, when we were planning a patient’s treatment, the data might have indicated that a higher than desired dose of radiation would be delivered to a particular organ such as the spinal cord; yet, we were unable to visualize the precise location of that dose or divert it,” Butler said. “Now, I am able to actually see the distribution and have the option to maneuver the excess dose away from the area and deposit it elsewhere.”
Surgeons can also use this technology to their advantage. It will give them the ability to visualize, before the patient arrives in the operating room, potential anatomical obstacles that could complicate performing a procedure.
“For instance, if a surgeon is performing a liver resection, we can simulate removing part of the patient’s liver, and with the push of a button determine how much of the remaining liver will be viable after the operation,” Butler said. “If it’s 20 percent or greater, the procedure can be performed; if less, it cannot. This will take surgical planning to a whole new level.”
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