According to World Health Organization’s publication ‘Health, history and hard choices’, the average global lifespan at the stroke of twentieth century was just 31 years and in 2005 it rocketed to 65.6 years. In 2030, it is expected to hit 85 years. This improvement is vastly due to the significant advancements in the field of medicine. A lot many of the incurable diseases of the past have now become healable and medicine industry is thriving hard to implement advanced treatment methods every day. The next giant leap in medicine is expected to be through visualization.
Most of us are familiar with the imageries that represent the interior of our body. We have seen plenty of such reports that doctors use for diagnosis. Now, imagine a surgeon viewing a lifelike three dimensional replica of the body and performing surgery on it. Imagine him observing the real outcome of the operation even before he performs it! He can analyse every minute detail regarding the body even before he enters the theatre. That is where ultimately visualization can take us to. Three dimensional images have already revolutionized the medicine field. Computed Tomography (CT) scanners and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners are already widely used to provide three-dimensional images from two dimensional slices. Almost all surgery and cancer treatment in the world depends on this. Interactiveness will be the next step forward for the three dimensional outputs and here is where visualization plays a key role.
When visualization becomes widely implemented, there will be one single display containing data from several scanning devices. Understandably, the most important factor here will be the methods in which the data is taken and there is already progress in this regard. Commercial CT scanners are now equipped with the ability to take five 320 slice volumes in a single second. That is quite adequate to generate three dimensional moving images of a beating heart. There are also latest diffusion imaging techniques that demonstrate diffusion of water through the body. This is very critical because water inclines to follow difficult to predict structures such as nerve bundles and muscle fibres. Images of these structures will widen the scope of neuroscience and biomechanics. Additionally, there are imaging techniques that focuses on minute elements such as molecules and genes. The mighty prospect of this is that it helps to identify pathological processes long before they are even visible at the upper level. This will bring remarkable changes in the way certain conditions like tumor is diagnosed.
Representation of such vast and complex data in a way that facilitates the most efficient analysis is another challenge that lies ahead of visualization but there are advancements there too. One such leap is the presentation of data on surfaces of objects. Yes, much similar to a science fiction movie! Except it is not a fiction anymore. This makes it convenient to study the shape of the organs and to also prepare for treatments and surgery. Additionally, with the most recent image processing methods, it is possible to add realistic lighting effects and thereby generate photorealistic images. Furthermore, these images can also show what lies underneath certain layers of the body.
One of the most important subjects in the research of medical visualization is the creation of images that will determine the possible outcome of a treatment or surgery. This way, doctors could quite easily communicate with the patients what their problems are and how they will be remedied. This level of visualization will also help doctors prepare well in advance and he will thoroughly know what he has to do even before he begins the treatment. Doctors have forever explained their patients how they should change their lifestyles and how certain life habits affect their health negatively. With visualization, they will not have to explain! They can easily show a patient how a certain habit can be beneficial or detrimental. They can also clearly narrate what their food habits should be and what certain foods could do to them. Leaving the technical benefits aside, visualization will also help clear any tensions or concerns for the patient as every step in the treatment can be communicated quite easily. A relaxed and confident patient is the first requisite for any treatment!
Another area of research is the visualization of multi subject data sets. This includes images of a certain condition from different patients round the globe and joining them together in a way that narrates the progression of disease and how it differs between various population groups. Various information such as age group and gender of patients, the duration of the disease, common life habits in patients etc can be studied and this will substantially enhance the curability and prevention of diseases.
It is absolutely amazing how a technology can benefit multiple industries and positively impact the future life. In 2030, when average global life span touches 85, visualization will have a great role to play. In other words, visualization is a major element for a healthy and flourishing future!