3D displays are capable of dealing with the steadily increasing amount of information for the radiological diagnosis. Thousands of image slices of patients' anatomy, whether Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance (MR) scans, are turned into sophisticated 3D models. This kind of reconstruction could be successfully applied in the communication between clinicians, radiologists, and their patients; in training sessions where virtual patients are used instead of real ones; and in diagnosis. In this regard, the results of the VISMED project are parts of a PACS system which is used in a real world clinical setting that includes state of the art volume visualisation techniques featuring optimised usability.
Unlike up to now, expensive extensions to the hardware of the workstations are no longer necessary. One single visualisation server is taking care of the computationally expensive generation of 3D renderings. Because multiple workstations may simultaneously benefit form this powerful service, the per-seat cost is significantly reduced. Not only the workstations within the data network of a hospital are able to access this visualisation server, but equally tele-radiology solutions, which connect multiple hospitals into a diagnostic cluster. In addition, Application Service Provider (ASP) solutions are capable of bringing the benefits of 3D visualisation to the desktop PCs of referring physicians in their offices. Using this technology health care professionals are able to collaborate on special cases using 3D tools without the necessity of spatial proximity.
The scientific team at Vienna University of Technology already has applied the medical 3D workstation in a variety of visualisation experiments, ranging from cardiovascular imaging, transplantation surgery planning, orthopaedic diagnosis and surgery planning, neuro-radiological applications, to vascular diagnosis and treatment planning. The current research is focused on virtual endoscopy to study hollow organs and anatomical cavities, such as the colon and the trachea. For this purpose, the team has mixed surface and volume rendering techniques to acquire a hybrid visualisation method, that allows to clearly view both the inner lumen and the external organ structures, using only a low-end standard personal computer.
The Austrian researchers have also created a fast visualisation technique for volumetric data, avoiding the need to perform the difficult tuning of transfer functions. The specification of transfer functions normally implies defining the mapping information for a number of different domains, such as colour and opacity. The design of a new user interface paradigm however features a set of specification tools for each separate domain, allowing to interactively investigate the 3D data with real time feedback during the manipulation of the parameters. The University Hospital of Innsbruck has been the very first medical centre to be equipped with the innovative 3D visualisation software tool worldwide. For more information, you can visit the illustrated Web site of the VISMED project.