Imagine standing in a medical imaging machine and having a complete 3-D or 4-D picture taken of your entire body. This is what medical image analysis is working to make a reality. Thanks to advancements in computer software and medical imaging devices, researchers at Microsoft Research Cambridge are changing the way medical software and devices produce and store images for diagnosis and treatment.
The new advances allow machines to take 3-D and 4-D images of specific regions of the body or the entire body as needed. Computers then pinpoint known organs and color code them for easy reference. The heart may be red, kidneys maroon and lunch a light blue. Suddenly, the flat image that was once used for medical diagnosis and treatment comes to life. Radiologists and doctors can then use these advanced images to measure and view organs on a 3 dimensional plane. Organs are no longer flat, they now represent real-life images that can be moved to view the top, bottom, front, back and all sides.
In addition to the 3-D and 4-D images, Microsoft Research Cambridge technology allows the human body to be segmented on screen. With the click of a mouse, the heart can be sliced down the middle and all internal valves are instantly on screen. When compared to the current medical imaging software and processes, this is cutting edge and poses great improvements for patients and medical professionals.
What Do These New Images Offer in the Future?
Medical students currently use cadavers for research and practice. In the future, the same medical image analysis software used to bring the human body to life can also be used for training purposes. Students will be able to take a more hands on approach to training by operating virtually on a “living” image connected to a simulation program. With robotic arms, the student will perform various tasks and the computer program will reveal the impact on the patient. This same training session style teaching can also be used by surgeons to practice a procedure before having a live patient in front of them.
Conspiracy theories have arisen thanks to Hollywood and the rendition of robots performing intense medical procedures on human patients. There is no inclination that Microsoft Research Cambridge or any other medical body will use this upcoming technology in that way. However, robotic practices in medicine are already utilized in a research setting to provide a protective barrier for researchers.