I received a text message on November 12, 2015 that changed my perspective on healthcare entirely. It was from my mother saying that my father had been rushed to the emergency room unexpectedly and that doctors were unsure of his condition.
Precious hours were spent manually taking and examining x-rays in hopes of figuring out what was wrong. Finally, one of the senior doctors performed a CT scan and was able to see that my father had an aortic dissection. With only minutes left to live, my father immediately underwent heart surgery, and miraculously survived.
Doctor, We Have a Problem
Nearly 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States each year, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women. This could be due to the fact that doctors are unable to make a diagnosis quickly enough. For instance, it took leading medical professionals nearly 2 hours to determine that my father had an aortic dissection. Why? Because healthcare tools today are not as advanced as they should be.
Medical imaging (X-ray, MRI, CT scan) in particular is problematic for quickly diagnosing and detecting life-threatening diseases. This is because traditional medical imaging systems provide 2D visual representations of human organs. However, these images are not accurate enough for physicians to quickly detect unusual findings in the human body. As a result, more patients are being misdiagnosed and living shorter lives.
3D Medical Imaging to the Rescue
Fortunately, new digital health solutions that rely on data and 3D technology are being implemented to provide faster and more accurate patient results. In fact, systems capable of 3D digital medical imaging are projected to hit $2.9 billion by 2020 and have already doubled in size over the past 2 years.
Fabien Beckers is extremely familiar with the impact that advanced medical imaging can have on the healthcare process. Fabien is the Founder and CEO of Arterys, a cloud based analytics platform that incorporates machine learning to revolutionize medical imaging.
Rather than relying on traditional x-rays to diagnose patients, Arterys provides physicians with an application to visualize and quantify blood flow in the body using any MRI machine. Arterys’ main product is called ‘4D Flow’, and it can be applied in various clinical situations including cardiac imaging, oncology, neurology, etc. It covers diseases of the heart, brain and other internal organs to accurately visualize and quantify blood flow from anywhere in the human body.
4D Flow works by imaging a specific body part and then sending data from this image directly to the Arterys Cloud, allowing a physician to see the “4D” visualization on any device with a Google Chrome browser. Key clinical information can then be obtained in about 10 minutes, versus a 60-90 minute cardiac MRI scan. As a result, doctors are able to quickly make a diagnosis with more accurate data and take medical action faster.
“Leveraging cloud computation and deep learning, Arterys is revolutionizing the field of medical imaging by moving from two-dimensional pictures to images in seven dimensions – three in space (length, height, width), as well as one in time and three in velocity of the blood flow,” said Fabien, CEO of Arterys. “This drastically increased clarity of information allows physicians to more efficiently and precisely quantify and visualize the heart to inform clinical decision making rapidly.”
Arterys isn’t the only player in the 3D medical imaging space. EchoPixel also offers physicians a more accurate view of internal organs being examined from CT, MRI and ultrasound scans. These images actually “pop off” a doctor’s screen through the use of 3D glasses and a special display.
EchoPixel takes 3D medical imaging a step further by also providing physicians with the ability to zoom in and focus on certain organs and pull out abnormal findings in a patient’s body scan. Doctors are now able to clearly view every area of a patient’s internal body parts. According to a recent Forbes article, EchoPixel has performed clinical studies with a medical group at Stanford University, demonstrating that its software could reduce by 40% the time it takes to diagnose a life-threatening medical issue.
2D Falls Flat
As technology continues to advance, it’s clear that 2D medical images are falling flat — literally. Doctors and physicians are simply unable to make sense of internal problems with visualizations that do not provide a clear and accurate view of the body’s organs. After all, it took hours of manual x-rays and a CT scan to diagnose my father with an aortic dissection (while he had minutes left to live).
Fortunately, 3D technology being applied to medical imaging finally allows doctors to accurately pinpoint life-threatening diseases. While this technology is certainly revolutionary, I do hope that we will see more work being done to advance this field. In this case, a picture is not just worth a thousand words, but these 3D images are actually worth thousands of human lives.
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