A new form of cardiovascular ultrasound based on virtual reality can now help doctors to have a 3-D representation of the human heart and thereby help in speedy and accurate diagnosis . The three-dimensional animated images or 'holograms' of the heart thus obtained allows doctors to 'dive' into the beating heart and examine its interior.
The ultrasound-generated 3D images of hearts have been projected in a specially designed four-walled room called the I-Space by Annemien van den Bosch and colleagues, from Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam in The Netherlands. The animated hologram is projected as floating in space in front of the viewers. A pair of polarizing lenses worn by the viewer allows in-depth analysis of the image.
The images were then presented to 10 different cardiologists for examination. The images were in such a way that it represented a heart defect that affects the shape of an inside part the heart. Images of healthy hearts were also given for comparison. The doctors who learnt to use the equipment were able to 'cut through' the heart to see inside, using a virtual pointer, within ten minutes and provide an accurate diagnosis.
"At the moment, I-Space technology is only available in a few dedicated research centers throughout the world", said one of the researchers. The combination of virtual reality and 3D echocardiography is hoped to have many potential applications in the near future that are not foreseen at the moment.