Virtual imaging in the operating room

Pioneering 3D Virtual Imaging Technology in the Operating Room

Pediatric radiologist Frandics Chan, MD, is implementing a new virtual imaging technology to aid surgeons in the operating room as they prepare to perform complex surgeries on both pediatric and adult patients.

The technology, which Dr. Chan helped develop with a Silicon Valley company called EchoPixel, is called True3D, and it digitally converts CT and MRI scans into 3-D images. In a dedicated cardiothoracic surgery suite within Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford’s newly opened Bonnie Uytengsu and Family Surgery and Intervention Center, surgeons can view and manipulate these 3-D images in an open space. This technology allows them to examine every layer of a patient’s anatomy and do a virtual run-through of the surgical procedure from inside the operating room before operating on the patient.

The technology was pioneered at Packard Children’s in 2017 and is rapidly evolving, according to Chan. He believes the technology could translate to any surgical specialty.

“In any situation with unexpected anatomy — either anatomical differences the patient was born with, those associated with tumors or those created by a prior surgery — this will be very helpful for both pediatric and adult patients.”— Frandics Chan, associate professor of radiology at the School of Medicine

The technique complements 3-D models of patients’ anatomy, which Chan now prints for one to two cases per month. “When you print an anatomical model, you can cut it open once and that’s it,” he said. “In virtual reality, you can put it back together, cut it again in a different place and magnify it with the flick of your hand.”

The tool will also help train radiologists to diagnose certain rare diseases. With experience, radiologists learn to build 3-D pictures in their heads from flat MRI or CT scans. However, that skill can be challenging to teach, and 3-D images make it easier for trainees to learn the details of certain diagnoses.

Chan also expects that in the near future, users will be able to link two True3D networks from anywhere in the world, opening the opportunity for real-time surgery consultations.

Dr. Chan consulted on the development of the True3D technology with EchoPixel, a company based in Mountain View, California. Chan has no financial relationship with EchoPixel or Hewlett Packard.