3D Technology: Boosting Patient and Physician Understanding

3D digital model creation software minimizes the effort and time associated with the creation of a patient-specific model

Founded in 1987 by the renowned, international radiologist Barry T. Katzen, MD, FACR, FACC, FSIR, the Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute was one of the first centers in the United States to treat heart and blood vessels as one entity. This unique approach, coupled with cutting-edge technologies, advanced research and international focus, resulted in the institute becoming a leader in cardiovascular care.

The challenge

The increasing use of minimally invasive therapy for the treatment of cardiovascular disease required more precise information to provide the right therapeutic solution. This all involved imaging – CT or MRI. The problem for physicians was how to translate this 2D data into something that patients could understand and would help physicians make the correct patient decision.

“We draw diagrams on paper for our patients, we show them pictures  or CT scans but sometimes all we get is an empty look back when explaining to them their condition,” said Dr. Katzen. “We needed a way to get our patients to understand what the problem is and why they need to be treated.”

“As physicians, we are used to looking at CTs and extrapolating the three-dimensional information in our heads and make them ‘virtual’ in order to decide on the best treatment”, said Dr. Katzen. But, is this way the best way to get the most information for successful minimally invasive therapy?

“I was looking for a way to take all the information in the patient’s CT scans and put them in a computer to generate a 3D model that anyone could understand – both patients and physicians. This model would be very detailed and patient specific showing us the information we needed.”

The solution

Years of collaboration with Surgical Science in developing cardiovascular modules and patient-specific cases for their pre-operative surgical planning systems led Dr. Katzen to naturally turn to them for a solution. Surgical Science’ D2P software was exactly the solution he was looking for. He numerated its principle benefits and advantages as:

Easy to Use – “With D2P software, I could sit down with the CT and very simply create the data set that could be sent off to a third party to make those prints. What D2P is doing is putting in the hands of the practicing physicians the ability to actually generate those 3D models exactly the way we want them to be to show us the information we need. The great thing about these 3D models is the physician actually does it. You don’t have to go out to someone with PhD at a university or an especially trained technologist as a 3D printing lab to make the model and manipulate the data.”

Helps Physicians to Make the Correct Patient Decisions – Dr. Katzen says the 3D model helps physicians be more precise while carefully navigating around delicate veins and arteries and learn the patient’s anatomy- things relating to heart and circulatory problems when treating aneurysms, the complex curve of an artery or angle of an artery. “We have seen a number of situations where by looking at a 3D model, we actually change our device selection or approach or in some way alter our treatment plan for that patient. I think it is going to offer a lot of potential in improving patient care.”

Helps Patient Understand Their Problems – “There is nothing better than showing patients a model and watching their eyebrows raise when the ‘aha!’ moment comes. Everything seems to click for them,” explained Dr. Katzen. “When a patient holds a three-dimensional model of their leg or their abdomen with an aneurysm or blockage or bad heart valve, this is very impactful in making them understand what the problem is and why they need to be treated.”

Virtual Reality Simulation – D2P even allows the physician to view the patient-specific 3D model in virtual reality. Dr. Katzen says that the virtual reality simulation allows physicians to actually look deeper into a model and to be able to understand it in a very real way. “It allows us to ‘run the racetrack before the race’ with the patient specific anatomy and treat that patient in a ‘virtual’ way before we actually treat them. This is definitely going to make us better practitioners and hopefully in the end result in better patient outcome.”

The outcome

Now that we can make 3D models so easily with D2P and see what these models look like and what they do in the patient’s hand, we know that this is the solution that will allow us to obtain the most patient specific information necessary for successful minimal invasive surgery. Dr. Katzen believes that “to the extent that we can ‘see inside someone’, get the most information and actually create a 3D model of the pathology to understand what is going on, we can better understand the impact of the treatment we are providing and what the best solutions for our patients.”