When it comes to full anatomic visualization, digital 3D models provide superior benefits over their physical counterparts.
- Healthcare practitioners can build digital 3D models to visualize patients’ anatomical structures
- 3D models enable surgeons, radiologists, and other healthcare professionals to gain a clear understanding of patients’ medical issues based on MRI and CT scans
- Digital 3D models provide an economical and convenient alternative to physical models of patients’ anatomical structures
- As healthcare professionals and medical students increasingly discover the benefits of digital 3D modeling, demand for physical 3D models in healthcare will likely subside
Visualizing human anatomy is crucial for surgeons, radiologists, medical students, and many others in the healthcare industry. With the ability to produce models of anatomical structures, healthcare practitioners are well-equipped to diagnose medical issues and develop the right treatment plan quickly and accurately. Plus, they can leverage these models to minimize patient risk and provide outstanding care.
There are two primary options for full anatomic visualization in healthcare: digital and physical 3D models. When deciding between the two, it is clear to see why digital 3D models deliver exceptional benefits over their physical counterparts.
Weighing the pros and cons of digital and physical 3D anatomical models
3D models empower healthcare professionals to closely evaluate patients’ anatomical structures. These professionals can use the models to understand why patients are dealing with certain medical issues and treat them accordingly. Also, the models ensure healthcare professionals can provide patients with in-depth details about the issues and appropriate treatment options. This ensures patients can make informed decisions regarding their medical treatment.
There are benefits of 3D models for medical students, as well. Students can use models in lieu of cadavers to assess anatomical structures. The models can be utilized to practice myriad medical procedures. They can even help medical schools improve their learning programs, to the point where students graduate with skill sets that far exceed what was previously possible.
In terms of 3D modeling in healthcare, digital models reign supreme over physical ones. Key reasons why this is the case include:
Converting an MRI or CT scan of a patient’s anatomical structure into a physical 3D model can be more expensive than producing a digital one. A physical model requires synthetic materials designed to replicate anatomical structures. Comparatively, a digital model only requires a Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality headset or other augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technologies.
The time it takes to produce a physical 3D model can be extensive. Meanwhile, the time it takes to turn an MRI or CT scan into a digital 3D model can be minimal compared to crafting a physical one. Visualization software like Intravision XR can be used to automatically craft a digital model based on a medical image scan. So, while a physical model may take days or weeks to produce, a digital one can be crafted in minutes.
A physical model of an anatomical structure can be used by one person or group at one location at one time. A digital version is accessible on AR- and VR-enabled devices from any location at any time. As such, digital models promote communication, collaboration, and information sharing among healthcare practitioners from around the globe that is unavailable with a physical version. Digital models also give medical students the opportunity to engage with teachers and learn the ins and outs of an anatomical structure like never before.
- Digital Transparency
Another big advantage digital models offer over physical ones is that you can see inside a digital model. You can easily add in or take out different structures to display what’s going on inside the organ at any level. If you cut open a physical model to reveal internal structures, you have now damaged your (expensive) physical model.
Study highlights the use of digital 3D models to improve surgical outcomes
A recent UCLA-led study highlighted the impact of utilizing digital 3D models to improve surgical outcomes. The study involved 92 patients with kidney tumors at six teaching hospitals. Forty-eight patients were placed into a control group, and the remainder were placed in an intervention group.
For patients in the control group, the surgeon relied exclusively on an MRI or CT scan to prepare for surgery. For the intervention group, the surgeon used an MRI or CT scan and a digital 3D model viewed on a mobile phone and VR headset.
Digital 3D models allowed surgeons in the study to see the depth and contour of patients’ anatomical structures. In contrast, an MRI or CT scan only enabled surgeons to view 2D images of these structures.
Ultimately, the study revealed digital 3D modeling provided surgeons with better visualization of patients’ anatomical structures. Surgeons who used digital 3D models reported substantial improvements relative to kidney tumor treatment. These surgeons recorded shorter operating times, less blood loss during surgery, and a shorter stay in the hospital after treatment than surgeons who only used MRI or CT scans.
The bottom line on digital vs. 3D modeling in healthcare
Physical models remain prominent in healthcare facilities around the world, but new technologies are becoming available that may make these models obsolete. As healthcare practitioners increasingly embrace digital 3D models, they can use them to deliver the best possible treatments. Furthermore, medical schools may use these models to ensure students can gain the skills they need to optimize patient outcomes.
DICOM Director has introduced the Intravision XR medical visualization software that makes it simple to produce digital models of MRI and CT scans. Contact us today to learn how healthcare practitioners can use Intravision XR to visualize patients’ anatomical structures quickly and easily.