Virtual reality enables 3D view of anatomy before surgery

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Interventional radiologists at Stanford University Medical Center are using visualization software from EchoPixel that turns 2D CT scans into 3D images so they can virtually view patents’ unique arterial anatomy to help them prepare for endovascular repair of splenic artery aneurysms.

According to Zlatko Devcic, MD, a fellow of interventional radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, splenic artery aneurysms—a rare and life-threatening clinical disorder—have complex anatomy that require meticulous pre-procedure planning.

“Treating splenic artery aneurysms can be very difficult because of their intricate nature and anatomic variations from patient to patient,” says Devcic. “This new platform allows you to view a patient’s arterial anatomy in a three-dimensional image, as if it is right in front of you, which may help interventional radiologists more quickly and thoroughly plan for the equipment and tools they’ll need for a successful outcome.”

Researchers presented results of their pilot study of EchoPixel’s True 3D system on Sunday at the Society of Interventional Radiology annual scientific meeting, held this week in Los Angeles.

In the study, three radiologists used both the new True 3D interactive virtual reality technology from EchoPixel as well as AquariusNet from TeraRecon—a commonly used visualization software system that displays images on a standard 2D platform—to independently evaluate 17 splenic artery aneurysms in 14 patients.

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“The point of the study was to test this new technology that’s been created by EchoPixel and to see if it is at least as good as the old technology in terms of getting us ready for the procedure,” says Devcic, lead author of the study.

What researchers found was that the overall sensitivity, accuracy and positive predictive value for True 3D was similar to that of AquariusNet when it came to identifying inflow and outflow arteries associated with the aneurysms. However, 93 percent of participating physicians who used EchoPixel’s virtual reality method indicated higher confidence in their ability to view and manipulate images, reporting a score of at least three points on a four-point scale.

Going forward, Devcic says that Stanford researchers would like to conduct additional studies to determine whether the “increase in confidence” from the 3D technology results in improved outcomes, as well as a reduction in the time needed to perform the procedure, which could translate into less radiation and contrast exposure to patients.

“The nice thing about this technology is that it has really broad applicability,” concludes Devcic. “We only used it for splenic artery aneurysms, but there are a lot of things it can be used for that we do in IR. We don’t physically open patients the way surgeons can. We do everything under imaging, and this is really applicable to every procedure that we do, allowing us to really get an appreciation of the patient’s anatomy so we know what we’re doing.”

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