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Medicine Biotech

Virtual Autopsy On a Multi-Touch Table Surface 72

An anonymous reader writes "Engadget points out one of the more interesting ways to use a multitouch table surface so far. Researchers at Norrkoping Visualization Centre and the Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization in Sweden have fitted such a device with stunning, volume-rendered visualizations of high-resolution MRI data. If you've ever wondered what the inside of a human being really looks like, but lacked the grit or credentials to watch an autopsy in the flesh, check it out."
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Virtual Autopsy On a Multi-Touch Table Surface

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  • by Da_Biz ( 267075 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @12:23PM (#29671157)

    I had the pleasure of taking Human Anatomy and Physiology a few years ago. The professor was superb, but our school didn't have the resources to afford a cadaver lab.

    Pictures and plastic models are OK, but there are times when being able to visualize something like this would greatly help the learning experience.

  • by CodingHero ( 1545185 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @12:31PM (#29671241)

    I had the pleasure of taking Human Anatomy and Physiology a few years ago. The professor was superb, but our school didn't have the resources to afford a cadaver lab.

    Pictures and plastic models are OK, but there are times when being able to visualize something like this would greatly help the learning experience.

    I agree that visualizing greatly helps the learning experience in science and engineering and that tools like this would be very helpful in the areas of medicine and biology. A cool next step to this would be some sort of "virtual surgery" that could pay attention to what both hands were doing at once.

  • Re:I think (Score:5, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @01:00PM (#29671567) Journal

    >>>I always preferred to play doctor instead.

    Good thing your childhood was in the past and not the present. Today's kids "play doctor" using cellphones, and they are getting charged with distributing child pornography. We just had another case yesterday where a girlfriend/boyfriend wanted to see each other naked, so they sent photos, and now they are charged with a crime. Ridiculous. If you can't even take a photos of your own body, then you no longer own it. You've become a serf.

    Also a distinction should be made between simple nudity and sex.
    The latter is pornographic; the former is not.
    The view of a human body without clothes is not something to fear.

  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @01:05PM (#29671631) Journal

    I think autopsies are a perfect first problem to solve. First, you can keep the corpse intact which makes the autopsies less distasteful to the family (assuming they want a viewing). Second, you get a lot more data about the tissues as they are intact at the time of the scan. Third, you keep a lot more detailed data than pictures and/or a videotape and a recording from the technician - you can review the data anytime you want.

    And, finally, if there turn out to be some adverse tissue effects from the scanners, their patients aren't really going to mind all that much.

  • Slow Reponse Time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by k0de ( 619918 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @01:11PM (#29671687) Homepage
    The concept and imaging are fantastic, but I hope the technology improves as the table didn't appear very responsive. I was annoyed just watching the users struggling to navigate it.
  • Re:Diagnosis (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chooks ( 71012 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @02:04PM (#29672265)

    Computers have been used for quite some time in medicine but mainly for data storage/retrieval. Their use in the diagnostic process is evolving. For example, computer aided reading of mammograms is a current area of R&D, although not to a point where it is automated. One cool application of 3D reconstruction currently in use is with bronchoscopies, where the software creates a 3D reconstruction of a bronchial tree from CT slices and then sets up breadcrumbs for a pulmonologist to a target site. During the bronchoscopy, the pulmonologist marks the crumbs as he goes to keep track of his progress. Virtual colonoscopies (with CT scans) are being looked at as an alternative for colonscopies (and some people do use them this way if there aren't other options, but it is not currently an accepted general screening method, at least according to the USPSTF). In pathology, research is ongoing on visualizing expression of multiple different types of proteins in tumor cells at the same which are then "read" by a computer with an eye to use data mining to determine sets of proteins as prognostic indicators. Also in pathology, scanning technology is progressing to the point where you can get high resolution scans of slides at different magnifications (up to 40x) fairly quickly that can be read remotely via viewing software. So in short - there are lots of interesting (dare I say exciting?) applications going on right now for using computers as an aid for the diagnostic process.

    That being said, as always the right study depends on time, cost, and quality. For example, sticking somebody you think has an epidural hematoma in an MRI scanner for $1600 and 45 minutes instead of a CT for $500 and 5 minutes isn't that bright of an idea. But as the technology evolves, do does the applications for it. One issue with indiscriminate scanning (and testing in general) is that it can actually harm people. This is the debate over prostate cancer/detection. Namely - if you find something in your study, what is the harm done in addressing (e.g. surgical morbidity/mortality/side effects) vs. not doing anything (mortality from the finding). This is the debate over prostate cancer screening/treatment right now. And of course there is always the issue of pre-test probability and its effect on test results (Baye's theroem []).

  • Re:I think (Score:4, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @02:43PM (#29672809) Journal

    >>>a difference between nudity as such and nudity with a sexual connotation

    Which basically means you can define ANY nudity as having a "sexual connotation". It's a slippery slope. For example I might just be taking videos of my vacation in Brazil (where the women and children wear little or nothing), but if my local District Attorney Harry Prude got a hold of it, he might label it "sexually explicit" and throw me in jail.

    It is better to define nudity as just nudity, and therefore protected freedom of expression, until there's an actual sex act occurring.

    >>>isn't "playing doctor" intended to be more than simple nudity

    Really? Man my neighbor Sally duped me! She told me "look but don't touch."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @03:15PM (#29673213)
    Just make sure to run the ol' metal detector on it first ;)
  • Re:Diagnosis (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chinodelosmuertos ( 805584 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @05:18PM (#29674737)

    Don't forget how a CT scanner works: it effectively takes thousands of xrays in a 360 degree plane around the body at different slices through the body. Start at the head, 360 degrees around the area. Move the body down a bit, do the thorax, 360 degrees, etc. [] Actually, most of the tech you see on the screen has been available for years - as in, a lot of ct scanners can do a 3d reconstruction anyway. The images you see on that vid have been done for years, it's just the setup which is pretty slick and neat. You can pan and scan and manipulate the images like that using any radiology imaging software. In clinical practice, most people don't bother with fancy reconstructions, not because it's memory intensive, but because there's no point. It looks nice, but most of the answers you can get without doing a silly reconstruction. You'll often see it done for fractures. And, as someone has already mentioned, scans aren't without their risk. As that wikipedia points out, you get about 3x your yearly dose of radiation in that one scan. And as for coupling it with other scans, again, kinda done anyway. But if you suspect someone has some pathology that needs a scan, you normally just pick the right scan for the job instead of taking a shotgun approach to the whole thing. It's cost and time intensive.

    And as for replacing the autopsy, hmmm. For about 10 years the Swiss have been trying to come out with virtual autopsies, heralding it as the way of the future [] The guy offers courses on how to use a CT scanner instead of an autopsy. The storage and memory problems not withstanding, there's also the cost of the systems, and the fact that there are very few radiologists worldwide who would be willing to take a 300k a year paycut to report on a bunch of corpses when pathologists have been doing the job for about 1/10th the cost for years. It's shown to be useful in very limited situations, including identification of remains in mass disasters... but again as a day to day tool, it's pretty hard to justify the cost. As far as I know, there are less than 10 forensic centres performing routine CT autopsies, none of which are based in the States. Albuquerque will probably be the first. Melbourne, Victoria does it, and probably has the highest throughput of any institute I've seen, but it really doesn't affect outcomes very much (ie, the person's still dead).

    What this is basically is a really nice teaching tool that can help people learn a bit about human anatomy. It would be great in museums and the odd medical library.

"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus