Dynamic 3D echocardiography in virtual reality
© van den Bosch et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2005
Received: 03 October 2005
Accepted: 23 December 2005
Published: 23 December 2005
This pilot study was performed to evaluate whether virtual reality is applicable for three-dimensional echocardiography and if three-dimensional echocardiographic 'holograms' have the potential to become a clinically useful tool.
Three-dimensional echocardiographic data sets from 2 normal subjects and from 4 patients with a mitral valve pathological condition were included in the study. The three-dimensional data sets were acquired with the Philips Sonos 7500 echo-system and transferred to the BARCO (Barco N.V., Kortrijk, Belgium) I-space. Ten independent observers assessed the 6 three-dimensional data sets with and without mitral valve pathology. After 10 minutes' instruction in the I-Space, all of the observers could use the virtual pointer that is necessary to create cut planes in the hologram.
The 10 independent observers correctly assessed the normal and pathological mitral valve in the holograms (analysis time approximately 10 minutes).
this report shows that dynamic holographic imaging of three-dimensional echocardiographic data is feasible. However, the applicability and use-fullness of this technology in clinical practice is still limited.
Evaluation of intracardiac anatomy from multiple two-dimensional echocardiographic images requires a mental conceptualisation process that is complicated by cardiac dynamics [1–3]. Currently, real-time 3D echocardiographic images of the heart do no longer demand this difficult and individually variable conceptualisation processes, by offering an equivocal presentation of cardiac anatomy throughout the cardiac cycle. However, the full 3D potential of these imaging modalities cannot be appreciated, since the 3D data are presented on a flat 2D screen. Virtual dynamic systems, known as virtual reality, can assist with the interpretation of 3D data of the heart in space and makes it possible to 'dive' into the 3D model of the heart [4–8]. This study is an attempt in the technological process of the future to evaluate whether virtual reality is feasible for 3D echocardiography and if 3D echocardiographic images in a virtual reality can advance to a clinically useful tool.
Data sets from normal subjects and from patients with mitral valve disease, referred for a diagnostic echocardiogram, were selected with the aim of gathering a representative series of mitral valve pathological conditions with sufficient image quality. For this feasibility study, we selected 3D data sets of clinical conditions which have advantage of 3D perspective: (1) two patients with a normal mitral valve, (2) a patient with a mitral valve prolaps of the P2 segment of the posterior leaflet, (3) a patient with mitral valve stenosis, (4) a patient with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy and systolic anterior motion of the mitral valve, and (5) a patient with an atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD) where there is a commissure present between the superior and inferior bridging leaflets. Ten observers (5 cardiologist, 3 cardiologist-in-training and 2 cardiothoracic surgeons), who were blinded for the type of mitral valve morphology, were instructed to assess mitral valve anatomy/pathology and function.
Three-dimensional echocardiographic data acquisition
The 3D data sets were acquired with the Philips Sonos 7500 echo system (Philips Medical Systems, Andover, MA, USA) equipped with a 3D data acquisition software package. Real-time 3D echocardiographic (RT-3DE) acquisition was done with ECG gating and in an end-expiratory breath-hold, lasting 6 to 8 seconds (depending on the heart rate). The 3D image data was stored on CD-ROM in DICOM 3.0 format and transferred to the computer (SGI Onyx4 Ultimate Vision, Silicon Graphics, Inc., Mountain View, CA, USA) driving the I-space.
Visualisation in a virtual reality environment
Additional File 1: Demonstration of the I-Space. The film shows a researcher going into the I-Space wearing a lightweight pair of polarised glasses and demonstrates the head/hand movements that allow a natural interaction with the images that are displayed. (MP4 2 MB)
Additional File 2: Demonstration of a heart hologram in the I-Space. (MP4 3 MB)
Visualisation of the mitral valve in virtual reality
This report presents a novel approach for visualisation of dynamic 3D echocardiographic data, known as virtual reality. The 3D echocardiographic data sets generated by a commercial available echo machine can be visualised as a dynamic hologram inside the I-Space. Until now, the 3D echocardiographic reconstructions could only be seen on a 2D screen, but virtual reality makes it possible to 'dive' into the actual 3D anatomy of the heart. We show that professionals, familiar with intracardiac anatomy, can learn how to handle the technique and cut through these holograms within 10 minutes. Subsequently, they were all able to correctly diagnose the intracardiac anatomy or pathology of the mitral valve. At the moment, I-Space technology is only available in a few dedicated research centres throughout the world. Therefore, the combination of the 3D echocardiography and virtual reality is very uncommon and the applicability and usefulness in clinical practice is still limited. However, in our opinion, it has potential and one can think of possible applications in the future.
Virtual reality provides a unique resource for education of intracardiac anatomy in general and/or specific cardiac structures. Especially for all professionals for whom detailed knowledge of the intracardiac anatomy is essential, virtual reality might lead to a better understanding of the intracardiac anatomy. With the growth of minimal invasive cardiac surgery and interventional procedures, the interest for simulation of the heart hologram as a training tool has increased. We believe that dynamic 3D echocardiography in virtual reality has the potential for wider applicability in providing a preview of real intracardiac anatomy. With the I-Space technology, the complex anatomy, pathology and dynamic changes of the heart are appropriately visualised in a virtual heart model, which increases the accessibility and availability of virtual reality for clinical practice. In order to be integrated into clinical practice, this application should be able to run on smaller virtual reality systems, either based on a single projection surface, or on a monitor (CRT or LCD).
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