We live in a three-dimensional world, where many physicians and surgeons diagnose, treat and operate on patients using flat images, but that is not the case at Children’s of Alabama. Seven years ago, I helped open Children’s first 3-D laboratory, which provides cutting-edge technology through advanced visualization. We help our medical staff provide a clearer, less invasive and more realistic view of joints and organs. With this type of information, doctors can also give patient families a clearer vision and understanding of their child’s condition.
As the 3-D Imaging Manager of our lab, I work closely with Children’s physicians to give the post-processing imaging they need to effectively craft treatment plans for patients. We draw data from regular CT, MRI, PET and Nuclear Medicine scans, and reformat them using various software platforms to produce a 3-D image. The process begins by asking physicians what their needs are, and then I evaluate how to give them the best image using several different systems.
For example, Children’s cardiologists and surgeons can assess blood flow and anatomical abnormalities using the information we provide. Advanced visualization presents them with a clear illustration of the structure of the heart and its vessels that is extremely valuable in determining treatment and mapping out surgical intervention.
Most recently, Children’s purchased a 3-D printer that helps create a realistic hand-held structure of a patient’s organ. It gives physicians the opportunity to specifically see every aspect of that child’s organ outside of the body. It not only helps educate the medical staff, but also gives parents a realistic view of their child’s diagnosis to help them understand the best possible treatment plan.
Every day, we perform studies that assist several departments, including pediatric neurosurgery for conditions like epilepsy; orthopedics when evaluating complicated structural anomalies and planning surgical correction, as well as monitoring post-surgical healing evaluations; pulmonology when performing a non-invasive virtual bronchoscopy; and oncology when post-processing PET and CT scans in cancer patients to precisely compare the growth and development of tumors.
As the imaging department continues to expand its knowledge with other technological capabilities available in the future, we look forward to continuing to help our doctors provide the best care available for their patients.
Jon “Jay” Betts is the 3-D Imaging Manager at Children’s of Alabama. He has 20 years of experience in multiple modalities of radiology. He has worked at Children’s of Alabama for 13 years.
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