Virtual dissection table gives startling views
“In a small room at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Albert Sherman Center, a professor takes a heart suffering from an aortic aneurysm and rotates it a full 360 degrees. Then, to get a better view of the damage, Dr. Anne Gilroy removes all of the patient’s ribs with the push of a button.
What sounds like gross malpractice is actually the medical school showing off a new device that Dr. Gilroy and others in the school’s Interprofessional Center for Experiential Learning and Simulation say will help doctors and medical students see more of the human anatomy. The Anatomage Virtual Dissection Table is, at its most basic, is an $80,000 human-sized Microsoft Windows tablet that displays all aspects of the human anatomy in 3-D. Operators can — by virtue of touching the screen — zoom in and out of a human (or animal’s) vital organs, bones and systems, as well as 200 cases of pathologies, ranging from an aortic aneurysm to a child’s throat abscess to tumors.
Doctors even have the ability to load a patient’s CT scan into the table, giving them (and the patient) an opportunity to see the patient’s anatomy — and whatever ails him or her — in vivid detail and definition. "Every day I come up with new uses for this thing," said Dr. Gilroy, associate professor of clinical anatomy, who has been learning how to operate the Anatomage since February. Since UMass is the only school in New England with a machine like this, Dr. Gilroy is the region’s foremost expert on how to use it.
For her, the machine is needed almost as much for teaching as it is for planning surgeries. "I really see it as very useful for residents dealing with patients," she said. "It’s good for them to see three dimensions." Dr. Gilroy said doctors can use the machine to show patients what is going on in their bodies, plan surgeries that may require an additional amount of finesse, or lead a class showing a particularly interesting case. The virtual dissection table goes above and beyond a CT scan. While the table’s resolution is essentially limited to the resolution of the CT scan that’s loaded into it, having the opportunity to view the image from any number of angles, as well as cross sections and layers of nerves, muscles and bone allows for a verisimilitude not normally available to doctors before a surgery, or students studying anatomy.
Also, high-resolution photos can be loaded and explored on the table. Fourth-year medical student Alexander Christakis, who received his introduction to the Anatomage on Thursday, said his interest in pathology jibes nicely with the machine’s capabilities. It allows him to be more careful when he is, for example, working with a patient who has a tumor in a particularly delicate part of their body. "You might (be able to plan) to avoid a vessel," he said, noting "everybody’s anatomy is different." The machine can even be used for post-operation consultations if a CT scan is done on a patient after their surgery. "They can also come back after the surgery and look at what they’ve done, evaluate how effective it was and evaluate healing," said Dr. Gilroy.
For now, Dr. Gilroy and the medical school are still finding ways to incorporate the Anatomage into the school, particularly for first-year and fourth-year students. She said she’d like to see doctors and surgeons use it to lead seminars and collaborate on difficult or out-of-the-ordinary cases. "Eventually, I think this will be in pretty high demand," Dr. Gilroy said. "This is so much better than being in an auditorium with a power point."
***What do the forensic anthropologists think?
(Source: News Telegram)