Like going to a 3D movie, expecting parents could soon be seen heading into an ultrasound lab with special glasses that enable them to see ultrasound images of their developing fetus. The images are very similar to those in an IMAX 3D movie, according to researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering.
The Duke researchers were the first to develop real-time, 3D ultrasound imaging. They have since modified the commercial version of the scanner to produce an even more realistic perception of depth. Special glasses seem to cause the images to pop out of the screen.
The updated version of the image-viewing software makes it possible to achieve a stereo display with no additional hardware.
"To our knowledge, this is the first time it's been made possible to display real-time stereo image pairs on a clinical scanner," said Stephen Smith, a professor of biomedical engineering at Duke. "We believe all 3D scanners could be modified in this way with only minor software changes."
Clinical benefits of the new capability can improve the early diagnosis of certain kinds of birth defects of the face and skull and improve surgeons' depth perception during ultrasound-guided medical procedures, including tumor biopsies and robot-assisted surgeries done through tiny keyhole incisions.
"Thousands of 3D ultrasound systems in clinics could be upgraded with such new software, and stereoscopic goggles could be issued to them as well," Smith said. "Keepsake DVDs of the fetal exam could also be viewed at home in 3D stereo."
The goggles would soon become obsolete, Smith added. New monitors capable of fusing stereo 3D images without them are now in development.
The findings were published this month in the journal Ultrasonic Imaging.
The researchers have recorded ultrasound images of a model human fetus that is traditionally used in the testing of fetal ultrasound imaging devices and posted them to YouTube: http://youtube.com/watch?v=4VSRlH01mzg. If you have the correct goggles you should be able to fuse them.