3D Medical Imaging

Could 3D Volumetric Displays be the future of Medical Imaging and Training?

With so many people mentioning to us lately just how good the Voxon VX1 would be for medical imaging and medical training, we thought we would investigate this a little further. Just how easy would it be to transform MRI data into a true 3D format that you could see on the Voxon VX1, a hologram, in front of your eyes, viewed from any angle, without any special glasses?

Doctors, medical students, nurses, dentists have all mentioned that this may be a great way to visualise medical imaging. Being able to walk around the image, zoom in and look at a part of the anatomy from any angle.

We set about taking some data that was freely available on the internet and put this onto the VX1. All up, it took about 10 minutes. Here’s a brief rundown of exactly what we did and what the results looked like.

MRI Data

Firstly, we needed some data. MRI data is usually presented as a DICOM file and if you don’t have your own data already, there’s a large amount of data readily available on the internet for scientific research and education purposes already. We used The Cancer Imaging Archive (TCIA) which has data organised into purpose-built collections of subjects. The subjects typically have a cancer type and/or anatomical site (lung, brain, etc.) in common. Each link in the table below contains information concerning the scientific value of a collection, information about how to obtain any supporting non-image data which may be available, and links to view or download the imaging data. This is an incredible source of DICOM data which is free to download and covers numerous areas of the body.

Downloading the MRI Data

We first visited The Cancer Imaging Archive (TCIA) and selected a database. In this example, we chose to download a image of a lung.

Cancer Imaging Archive
Accessing medical data from the Cancer Imaging Archive is as easy as clicking ‘Download’

Create a 3D Model from the DICOM file

We then used an excellent open source program called Slicer to convert the DICOM data to a 3D STL. 3D Slicer has numerous options for processing and segmenting MRI data. After importing the MRI data (the DICOM files are essentially folders full of MRI images that represent a cross-section of a subject), we selected a density value threshold, in this case selecting bone (and some other organs), and selected the option to create a volumetric representation of the selected data. Finally, we used the mesh function to create a polygon mesh from the volumetric data and saved it as an STL.

3D Slicer can be downloaded from https://www.slicer.org/

Creating a STL file using 3D Slicer

Optimising the STL file

The STL file created by SLICER had around 1.6 Million polygons. To save space and reduce CPU overhead, we then used another useful, and open source program called MeshLab to optimise the STL, reducing the polycount from 1.6million to 216,000.  Meshlab is an incredibly powerful program and is not just for mesh optimisation. It has numerous options for editing, cleaning, healing, inspecting, rendering, texturing and converting meshes to other formats. Meshlab can be downloaded from http://www.meshlab.net/

Meshlab Optimising STL
The above image shows the mesh before being optimised.


Meshlab Optimised STL file
The above image shows the mesh after being optimised with its polycount reduced to 216k.

Display the image on the Voxon VX1 – a new future for medical imaging

We then displayed the optimised STL file on Voxon VX1, the world’s most advanced 3D Volumetric Display. Here’s the resulting file displayed on the Voxon VX1.


Medical Imaging MRI data Voxon VX1. This photo shows it zoomed in to see vertebrae in more detail.
The MRI data being displayed on the Voxon VX1. This photo shows it zoomed in to see vertebrae in more detail.

The Next Steps

While it only took 10 mins to display a MRI onto the Voxon VX1, our next step is to build a way to display DICOM files natively so they can be displayed automatically on the Voxon VX1 without having to do any conversion. Native support will allow the user to load a DICOM file from USB and be able to visually strip away, or display different parts of the MRI data (e.g. blood vessels, bones etc) so that the image can be displayed however the user wants. This would allow all of the original data to be retained so the data can accurately be used and displayed for investigative detailed medical analysis or training.

I hope you have enjoyed a snapshot into the world of medical imaging and how we displayed this data on the Voxon VX1. What do you think? Would visualising a MRI file in 3D Volumetric Display assist in medical training and education?

Let us know if you have any questions about this or leave your comments below. We would love to hear from you…

To find out more about ordering a Voxon VX1 click here.


1 Comment

  • Bec says:

    Looks amazing! As someone who works in cardiac imaging this would have massive potential for training but also for surgical intervention.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard