Harnessing 3D technology to achieve optimal healthcare outcomes

IN THIS AGE OF ADVANCED HEALTHCARE AND TECHNOLOGY, modern techniques for pre-operative planning are still underutilized, as many surgeons still rely on two-dimensional (2D) imaging and limited information regarding a patient’s anatomy for surgical preparation. 

3D model of a spine in preparation for a hemivertebrectomy and insertion of an expandable rod to control the scoliosis.

With the advent of three-dimensional Extended Reality (3DXR) visualization technology, doctors can now provide patients with individualized 3D models of anatomy. However, while 3DXR technologies have become ubiquitous, 90 percent of doctors in Hawai‘i do not use either when planning surgeries, according to XR Labs LLC, a digital medical planning company working to transform pre-surgical planning and clinical training in Hawai‘i.

As a University of Hawai‘i (UH) startup, XR Labs developed its 3DXR visualization technology and unique, turn-key Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). Its founders — Chief Executive Officer and Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology Professor Scott Lozanoff; Chief Technology Officer and Technical Director of Anatomical Imaging Jesse Thompson; and Chief Medical Officer and Clinical Assistant Professor Thomas Noh — have a combined 40 years of clinical and academic experience in healthcare and biomedical visualization.

“Using 2D scans in pre-operative planning are insufficient in depicting the complexities of 3D human anatomy, especially when surgeons are tasked with making as small an incision as possible,” said Noh. “For example, in removing tumors, spatial relationships of the tumor location and extent are necessary to accomplish complete resection. In prosthetic surgeries, doctors must have a clear understanding of the amount of tissue available for prosthetic device insertions in order to achieve the necessary bony incorporation. Access to 3D tissue contour patterns is also critical for doctors to restore full esthetic quality during pediatric surgeries.”

XR Labs has already developed 3D models for a pediatric Scoliosis case, which allowed the surgeon to preoperatively plan the complex operation and successfully treat the patient. The company also helped orthopedic surgeon and JABSOM Associate Professor Paul Morton
significantly alter his surgical plan for a hip dysplasia case after being able to see and feel the cracks and crevices of the patient’s hip architecture and pre-operatively study the bony framework.

The 3D images are created using hundreds of 2D patient scans and AI models which can be sent directly to smartphone platforms within a matter of hours. Accurate life-sized versions in 3D allow surgeons to rehearse an operation to help prevent intraoperative issues or the need for corrective surgeries.

“As 3D medical data becomes more accessible, we see ourselves as a company that helps patients receive more individualized care,” said Thompson.

“We want to empower patients and doctors with more impactful visual information. AI tools allow us to more rapidly prepare medical imaging data and maybe in the future play a role in early detection of disease and cancer.”

– Jesse Thompson

Positive clinical outcomes have long-been known to correlate with a patient’s medical knowledge of their own condition, and providing tools, like 3D images and models, helps to improve patient education about an upcoming surgery. This can significantly reduce patient anxiety as well as promote pre- and post-surgical compliance, adherence, and result in more efficient and cost-effective recovery.

XR Labs hopes its technology and services can also enhance access to learning models and advanced clinical training opportunities for medical students and other healthcare providers, especially on the neighbor islands and in other remote areas.

“What we’re really developing is a simple, turn-key system that provides doctors, students and patients with rapid access to personal, anatomical, 3D XR visualization in order to achieve optimal healthcare outcomes,” said Lozanoff.