The climactic moment of the most recent episode of the ABC hit medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” took place when one of the series’ most popular characters, Dr. Cristina Yang, is being wooed to a well-funded Swiss hospital by her ex-fiance, Dr. Preston Burke – both of them are world-class heart surgeons.
Burke mysteriously invites Yang into an operating room where surgery is taking place. At first, Yang skeptically looks down her nose at what appears to be a routine heart procedure.
But her scorn turns to wonderment when in front of her appears a hologram reproduction of a beating heart. Burke explains that it is a perfect reproduction of the heart of the patient on the table, and shows her how she can virtually manipulate the organ – turn it over to examine it from every angle and even virtually slice it open, helping the surgeon plan the best possible way to repair it. Dr. Yang is duly impressed.
Like most of the cutting-edge procedures featured on Grey’s (alongside the soap opera elements that keep the audience back) the exciting 3-D hologram isn’t the product of a TV writer’s imagination – it is based on real technology.
But in the real world of medicine, the technique wasn’t developed in a wealthy hospital in the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland to which Yang is being tempted to defect, but in a less romantically photogenic startup in Yokneam, Israel.
The floating 3D holographic imaging technology developed by Realview Imaging Limited and successfully tested at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petach Tikva gives doctors a real-time view of the organ they are operating on when their patient is on the table by merging the data mined from X-ray, MRI or ultrasound imaging.
According to the company’s website, the 3D images are “dynamic, in color and of high resolution, providing the viewer with a unique “ultra-realistic” viewing experience, unlike anything that exists today. The projected holograms can be viewed from different angles while seen in a precise spatial location and contain all the visual depth cues, as if the projected objects were truly there. Naturally, as the images are digital, they can be rotated or otherwise manipulated as required by literally touching them in real-time.”
The technique allows surgeons to use minimally invasive techniques – while still giving them the same comprehensive view of the heart they would have in open heart surgery. The revolutionary technology was tested in a clinical feasibility study at Schneider, where Realview’s medical director Elchanan Bruckheimer, serves as the head of cardiac catheterization.
The exciting new technology was unveiled at a medical conference last October, and after further trials, the company expects to launch its first products commercially in 2015. In the future, they hope to use their technology for fetal imaging, giving medical teams – as detailed a picture of an unborn fetus as TV’s Dr. Yang was able to get of a human heart.
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