Since the invention of the X-ray machine in 1895, medical imaging technology has improved dramatically, but the visualisation of those images hasn’t changed enough to keep up. Even though CTs and MRIs capture 3D data, the consumption of that data by physicians is still almost entirely in 2D formats. EchoPixel, a company based in Mountain View, California, hopes to bridge the gap.
The company’s technology uses a patient’s CT, MRI, or ultrasound scans to generate a holographic experience that can be manipulated, shared, or saved for later reference. By doing so, it allows medical teams to better understand clinical problems and to communicate more effectively.
EchoPixel’s software platform, True 3D, runs on special hardware that consists of a monitor, a stylus, and a pair of glasses. Existing CT, MRI, or ultrasound images are loaded onto the software, and the software “pieces” together the image slices into a 3D replica of the patient’s scanned anatomy.
The glasses allow physicians to see these patient-specific body parts emanating from the display, and the stylus can be used as a manipulation tool to take measurements, slice through and visualise cross sections, or even put in virtual implantable devices to compare sizing.
EchoPixel started from Founder and CEO Sergio Aguirre’s realisation that there is a disparity between the advanced imaging technologies and the relatively rudimentary way that those images are consumed.
“There are 600 million imaging studies done every year, and over half of those are 3D data sets, but they’re still seen as 2D,” says Aguirre. Even though radiologists are trained to understand these 2D images, other clinicians may not grasp their meanings quite so well, he says.
“It really limits the ability of hospitals to leverage all of that clinically significant information.” As a result, Aguirre began working on EchoPixel and formally incorporated it in 2012.
Since then, EchoPixel has been adopted by 15 hospitals. The technology has been used mostly for heart surgeries, in particular for the diagnosis and surgical planning of pediatric congenital heart defects. It is also beginning to see use in interventional radiology procedures, as it can visualise not only large structures, but smaller blood vessels as well.
Recently, EchoPixel played a crucial role in an operation to separate conjoined twins at Stanford University Medical Center. During the planning stages, for example, the radiology and surgery teams worked closely together and used EchoPixel’s True 3D-driven holographic experiences as their common language.
“The radiology team loaded the images, highlighted certain things, and then presented it to the surgeons,” recalls Aguirre. The True 3D images allowed them to collaborate and talk through their options more efficiently, solidify a plan, and then save that plan for later reference.
EchoPixel was then set up within the operating room itself, so that surgeons could access their saved plan as a guide. For example, “they needed to make sure they were assigning the bowel to the correct patient… and [that] they were giving the right vessels to the right patient,” Aguirre explains, and they stepped away from the operating table to double-check with their saved 3D plan several times.
By using True 3D to generate true-to-size, interactive, patient-specific anatomical structures within seconds, EchoPixel allows physicians to collaborate and operate better.
“I really think there’s no reason why any doctor should be looking, in almost 2018, at a 2D image,” says Aguirre. “It’s just ridiculous to me. I think the technology’s there, the software’s there, and I’m really excited about what’s going on.”