Dr. Georgios Sakas is Head of the Cognitive and Medical Imaging Department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics. At ITIS'98, he presented four exciting projects in which the institute is actively involved together with other partners to try and bring together HPCN, 3D modelling and telemedicine. A few of these initiatives are supported by the European Commission. This spirited speaker proved that the advanced (tele)medical technologies we often talk about, are not hidden away in some misty vision but are constantly being optimised, refined, tested and applied here and now. Seems as if we were travelling "back to the future..."
The first project relates to complex 3D data computing for the reconstruction of the heart chambers. Conventional angiography is performed, using a catheter and manual measurement of the ventricle diameters in a number of radiographies. The new system works with the backprojection. Out of different 2D X-ray projections, the distribution of the absorption parts is traced alongside a large number of rays back to the X-ray source. By means of rotation angiography, the heart ventricle can be displayed out of the resulting 3D image. Because the 3D modelling from 2D images takes several hours, the researchers suggest that the solution might be found in sequenced algorithms. They have the support of several hospitals which are eagerly contributing to the ongoing work.
The second project deals with 3D ultrasound. Under the common name InViVo, which stands for Interactive Visualiser for Volume data, a set of independent software systems has been developed to render conventional 2D images of an examined area of the patient's body into a 3D volume sample for further processing. Since doctors usually are not willing to wait long for examination results, InViVo provides the necessary data much faster than traditional methods do.
EXOMIO is the name of the third project which explores the possibilities of virtual simulation for cancer treatment. The radiotherapy treatment planning (RTP) is performed by using the patient's digital CT-data instead of troubling the physical patient. Virtualisation of the RTP process has the main advantage that the physical simulator unit is replaced by a virtual one. The whole operation of diagnosis, planning, simulating, verifying, and executing the radiation treatment, is being integrated in one single device. This enhances the efficiency and accuracy while reducing costs with regard to time and physical patient transportation from one clinic to another.
The software package TeleInVivo constitutes the content of a fourth project. The idea is to set up a transportable telemedicine workstation, connected with a portable ultrasound device, for use in isolated regions or crisis situations. Via a PC equipped with telecommunication capabilities, contact can be established between the local and the remote station. Both physician and distant expert are linked online, viewing the identical images on the screen in real time through relatively simple narrow-band channels. A version of this system already has been used in Bosnia in the summer of 1996. The next phase in the project will include a medical teleconference emergency workstation to be tested in Portugal, Uganda, and Kazachstan.
Future dreams, expressed by Dr. Sakas, relate to more advanced qualitative implementation still, such as the development of high technological tools for segmentation and analysis; multi-user applications; full DICOM 3 (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) support; exact geometry for Virtual Reality; and powerful navigation. The ongoing research work is displayed at the Fraunhofer web site.