Rady Children’s Hospital Releases Free 3D Viewer for Surgical Planning

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Charitable donations often skew towards the visible. In high school, we used to visit a poor area once a year and paint their schools. This was nice and concrete, good for pictures. However, perhaps better teachers and more books would have been more helpful. It’s rare, therefore, for donors to look beyond and see the bigger picture. This is why this news is so fantastic. San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital has now released Arc Viewer, a free CT and MRI file viewer.

Viewing and getting DICOM and other 3D image formats has always been fraught with difficulty. Expensive packages were often the only surefire way to do this, and even they were often clunky. Therefore, the Helen and Will Webster Foundation 3D Innovations (3DI) Lab built a tool to solve this problem. The lab was set up to make personalized models for doctor training and patient education. Through 3D printing models, doctors can examine specific pathology, and patients can make more informed decisions about complex procedures. We know that personalized models work, and over 100 3D printing labs in hospitals are proving this every day. They help guide surgeons in complicated procedures and could lead to innovative medical devices, procedures, and solutions. However, making models has been too expensive. Now, with a Formlabs or Artillery 3D printer, you can make a model inexpensively, but the software is still a drag.

“The current state of healthcare calls for complex technology to become a part of a physician’s everyday life. Having access to an intuitive platform to view the patient-specific anatomy of a tiny, intricate cardiac chamber before going into surgery is game-changing.  Coupled with the fact that I can operate the software on my computer to view an accurate 3D image of the heart  all within minutes this technology greatly helps with surgery planning and increases confidence in the operating room,” said Dr. John Nigro, Division Chief of Cardiac Surgery & Cardiac Transplant Services at Rady Children’s Hospital, and Co-Director, Rady Children’s Heart Institute.

“It is uncommon to leverage a video game engine or apply video game design principles in healthcare software, but this strategy has enhanced the approachability of the software and resulted in a better user experience. Arc Viewer paves the way for the creation of more technologies that enable physicians to work at the speed of thought and continue to improve patient health outcomes. As part of a children’s hospital, our team feels inspired by the stories we hear and what we see around us. We look forward to continuing the development of technologies that will help our physicians deliver the best patient care,” stated Parham Gholami a Research Engineer at Rady Children’s Hospital.

The video game design principles were powered by the Unity game engine. That, in part, is what makes the tool so accessible for every doctor. The software lets you view CT and MRI scans and convert them into OBJ or STL files. Previously, the same lab also released the Media2DICOM package. We already wrote about Rady’s work in 3D printing medical scans in 2017. The hospital also tested a 3D printed device in 2018. We also interviewed the hospital’s Justin Ryan about running a 3D printing lab in a hospital.

Rady´s is really forging ahead in 3D printing and improving its stature in the field and patient care as it does this. Its progress is commendable but the releasing of software is something that we should really celebrate. More foundations and public institutions shroud look beyond their own walls and see what tools they can make to enable and accelerate others work.

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