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New imaging tool gives 3-D view of patients’ anatomy

True3dA new computer program is helping surgeons view their patients' medical scans in three dimensions, enabling better planning for surgeries on people with unusual anatomy. The program can transform a series of two-dimensional CT or MRI scans into a 3-D image that surgeons can rotate, examine, cut and reassemble from any angle, helping them anticipate exactly what they'll see at every stage of surgery.

For a recent story, cardiothoracic surgeon Katsuhide Maeda, MD, who led the first procedure using the technology at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, told me why it was helpful to view patient Gina Milner's cardiothoracic anatomy in three dimensions before her heart valve replacement surgery:

'For patients with very complex anatomy and a lot of variation from the normal cardiac structure, 3-D technologies are really helpful,' said Maeda...

Milner, 46, was born with a heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot that was repaired in childhood, placing her in the group of patients for whom standard 2-D imaging may not give surgeons the information they want. 'It can sometimes be very hard to understand how to put a path through the heart,' Maeda said.

Milner had been referred to the hospital's Adult Congenital Heart Program when her physicians determined that she needed a new heart valve. Most patients in her situation undergo open-heart surgery through a large incision, but Maeda hoped to perform the operation through a much smaller opening. Viewing the 3-D scans helped him answer his questions about whether that was feasible -- all before making a single cut.

"We’re going to use 3-D and other virtual-reality technologies more and more,' Maeda said. 'They have big advantages for our patients."

Previously: Using 3-D technology to screen for breast cancer, New 3-D interactive search tool of human body released and Stanford researchers develop simulations to improve heart surgeries
Photo courtesy of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford

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