3-D Imaging

In medicine, 3-D imaging is the process used to create images of the human body and its internal organs. This type of procedure requires a patient to lie still while a machine circles the patient to record the images. Different techniques are used depending on the part of the body being examined and what variety of image is needed. If nuclear medicine is being used, a contrast dye is administered to help with visibility of the specified areas.

Three-dimensional imaging is performed by a medical doctor called a radiologist and radiology technicians. It can be used for many reasons, such as to assess an injury or to locate a tumor.

After the 3-D scanning is complete, the images are compiled into a maneuverable, three-dimensional image of the area, allowing the radiologist to analyze it. The referring physician can then use the results to diagnose the problem and determine a course of treatment -- all before any surgery begins.

Types of 3-D Imaging

There are many types of 3-D imaging, including:

  • Ultrasonography
  • Computed tomography
  • Echocardiography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Nuclear medicine

Benefits of 3-D Imaging

Three-dimensional imaging offers advantages to physicians in almost every area of medicine. For example, neurosurgeons no longer need to drill into the skull to look at the brain. Cardiologists don't have to spread the ribcage to study the heart. It is not necessary for radiologists to biopsy large samples of tissue to find a tumor.

In short, doctors are able to collect more information than ever about a problem before attempting surgery, and patients benefit from minimally invasive procedures because the problem area has been precisely located.

There are also uses for three-dimensional imaging during surgery. In computer-assisted, or robotic, surgery, a surgeon is able to operate using a highly precise robotic arm equipped with a tiny camera. The surgeon controls its every movement while watching a screen that displays video images of what is happening inside the patient. This gives the surgeon the precise view traditional open surgery would provide, but with the benefit of a steady "arm" and small incisions.

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