Having images in 3D provides advantages over 2-D images for brain surgeons, Rhoton said. For instance, two-dimensional content tends to flatten brain anatomy, obscuring the way nerves, veins and other structures traverse the brain matter, he said. Surgeons viewing the 3-D images, in contrast, can plan a precise surgical path, avoiding delicate structures whose damage would have dire consequences.
With 3-D images, "the anatomy is displayed in such a way that you can orient the images to the direction of approach the surgeon is using in the O.R. [operating room]," Rhoton said. "You can see where the nerves and structures are that need to be protected in that particular area, using that specific approach, in that specific direction."
Rhoton and AANS have formatted the images with a menu, so that users can control the angle and area of the brain they want to view; users can even click links to call up medical literature related to the portion of the brain they're viewing.
Rhoton's work earned him the 2011 Surgeon of the Year award from the journal World Neurosurgery. His images and educational efforts have helped "several thousands of neurosurgeons scattered across the planet to save millions of lives," Dr. Hildo Azevedo-Filho, chairman of neurological surgery at the University of Pernambuco in Brazil, wrote in recognizing the award.
After seeing how surgeons have used his images during actual surgeries, Rhoton and the AANS next hope to feed the brain maps directly into endoscope screens used in surgery. They're developing technology that would split that screen to show Rhoton's images side by side with the live feed from cameras inserted into the patient's brain.
Moreover, Rhoton said the library of images and videos will only continue to grow. "We've just scratched the surface on the number of images," he said.
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