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Courtesy: EchoPixel

EchoPixel's True 3-D offers step forward for virtual reality in health care

by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
Doctors take note, there's a 3-D visualization platform that will let you look around anatomical corners to get at the details you need to see — and it can cut costs, speed time to diagnosis — and lead to better outcomes.

"Knowing the problems that doctors had for 40 plus years of struggling with 2-D views to create 3-D information in their brains," EchoPixel CEO Ron Schilling told TechCrunch, "that's been the challenge. And we had no technology to resolve that."

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That is now set to change. EchoPixel's "True 3-D" is FDA-approved and the company has begun to sell three-year subscriptions to its technology for $25,000 a year, the site reported. The firm is also seeking approval in Europe and Asia.

The system is already in place at hospitals. The Cleveland Clinic is using it for liver surgery planning and preparation. At Stanford University surgeons are employing it to prep for heart operations on babies, according to CNBC.

Clinical studies have shown that the new visualization approach let physicians discover up to 90 percent more congenital heart defects in newborns — and in 40 percent less time, according to TechCrunch.

EchoPixel's "interactive VR" approach permits you to forgo clunky VR headsets, but instead just look at the image on a monitor using 3-D glasses.

The system can import hundreds of MR and CT images to create a composite multilayered image on the screen. Wearing 3-D glasses, a viewer can look around the images which rotate in conjunction with the angle the screen is looked at. In addition, there is a stylus that allows layers to be peeled off to permit the viewing of the anatomy that is underneath. This creates a real time approach that is almost as if a dissection was being made.

"We're importing about 300 CT images that is a volumetric data set of a patient's head, who happens to have an aneurysm," EchoPixel Founder Sergio Aguirre explained in his TechCrunch demonstration. He went on to explain that using the stylus, the layers can be "sliced through" to reveal the aneurysm, and with a stylus, the aneurysm itself can be pulled out, rotated and examined from all sides.

"So this is basically working with body parts instead of images," he told the site, adding that holding the stylus is, "almost like holding a scalpel and practicing your surgery."

What it lets surgeons do now, added Schilling, is "to get a much more intuitive feeling of what they're looking at," explaining that the system lets doctors save time, and "think more creatively. We're able to get much better clinical results and better workflow results."

UCSF's Dr. Judy Yee has used the system, especially for virtual colonoscopy. "Our goal is to identify the precursor lesions that may develop into a cancer. What the EchoPixel platform does is a game changer," she told TechCrunch.

"Not only is it engaging and interactive for the radiologist who uses it, but it allows us to identify the lesions just as well, if not better, and we're looking at larger portions of the colon at once," which makes it more time efficient, she told the site. "The fact that you have a model of the colon in true 3-D space — you can really manipulate it in a way that highlights lesions that are just too tough for us to pick up with the flatter displays."

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