Whether some people like it or not, 3D imaging has made it a volume-based world. Division remains, however, between those who wouldn’t want to image any other way and those who wish 3D would go away. The latter group would like to continue its status quo imaging and not deal with 3D’s formidable learning curve, but to deny 3D’s importance is unrealistic. Innovations ranging from improved processing to better training are filling 3D’s breach. And in the future, radiologists and surgeons will find it harder to imagine imaging without 3D.

From CT and MR to ultrasound and high-speed C-arms, 3D is providing better information for patients and assisting physicians and surgeons in planning treatment and surgery. But as bright as 3D’s future may be, present issues need to be addressed for the technology to reach its full potential and to bring 3D imaging onto the radar screens of the remaining skeptics and resistors. Education and training remain key elements in ensuring 3D’s continued growth and acceptance.

Elliot Fishman, director of diagnostic radiology and body CT at The Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore, Md.) and long-time proponent of volume visualization, typically asks attendees at 3D work sessions he conducts how many users feel they are well trained on their workstations. “Invariably, one person raises his hand,” Fishman says. “People are not well-trained on how to use their workstation, and the typical thing is if you are not well trained, you do not use it. And that’s where the changes in workflow [come in].”

Radiologists, Fishman says, are very enthusiastic about the 3D process as are techs who often are still involved in preparing more complex images for viewing and manipulation by radiologists. “Their ability to do it may not exactly be there because they don’t have the capabilities, but I think that people now recognize as companies do that working to figure out ways [to train and educate] is not a simple answer,” Fishman says. “People don’t have the time. You’ve heard all the stories, but the reality is those stories don’t work very well. You have to get down to business.”

It speaks volumes
Initially, 3D was a separate process that was performed on a separate workstation for select applications. Now, however, 3D functionality is beginning to be built into the scanner at the front of the process. “Siemens Medical Solutions (Malvern, Pa.) has InSpace built into the computer,” Fishman says. “It’s on their workstations also, but you don’t have to be far from the scanner to do it. You can do it in real time. With demands now 24/7 for this type of processing, it needs to be on the scanner, available immediately. It can’t be something that becomes available three days later. That’s the big thing. It’s changing what you need to do.”

Please refer to the February 2003 issue for the complete story. For information on article reprints, contact Martin St. Denis