Obviously, we write about every aspect of 3D technology here at 3DPrint.com. More and more frequently, we also cover 4D technology, but 7D? That’s stretching it a bit. Or so I thought until I heard about the latest invention from GE Healthcare.
The technology has been, quietly, in the works for some time, as GE Healthcare and Arterys have been working in a partnership to develop a solution. The partnership sought to change both the way an MRI images the heart and the automatic analysis in the cloud of the data. The software and algorithms that make up ViosWorks are capable of capturing data from all seven dimensions and displaying them in as little as 8 minutes; typical MRI scans generally take 45 minutes to an hour. For a patient having a heart attack, that hour can be critical.
Moreover, while conventional MRI scans assemble data by taking images one thin slice of tissue at a time — almost like a 3D print job — ViosWorks can display high resolution videos of the heart in near real-time, allowing doctors to observe blood flow and contraction of ventricles, as well as immediately spotting damaged or scarred tissue. The entire interior of the chest can be observed from any vantage point. Patients can breathe freely while the scan is being performed, unlike during a conventional MRI, which requires patients to hold incredibly still so clear images can be taken – not so easy to do while you’re having a heart attack.
ViosWorks is not yet commercially available, but GE Healthcare debuted the technology — and announced the partnership with Arterys — at this year’s meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, which concludes today in Chicago. Once it is released, ViosWorks could have a staggering impact on the entire healthcare industry.
The CDC Foundation estimates that by 2030, direct medical costs associated with cardiovascular disease could exceed $818 billion annually, with an additional $275 billion incurred from lost productivity costs. That’s to say nothing of the emotional and physical tolls heart disease take on patients and their families. Beyond enabling doctors to administer lifesaving care to individual patients, ViosWorks will also potentially reduce costs in equipment and manpower, as four times as many patients can be served with one machine.
The ViosWorks software will also allow surgeons to build even more detailed 3D surgical models prior to cardiac surgery. The software can be installed in existing MRI machines, so no major new equipment is needed. While the technology was developed for cardiac imaging, there’s no doubt that it will soon extend into other areas. Anja Brau, director of global cardiac magnetic resonance at GE Healthcare, sees this breakthrough as a start that will potentially lead to much more:
“As exciting and encouraging as these breakthroughs are, they are also just the beginning of what we can achieve.”