With High School football kicking off across Central Illinois, the rallying cry of ‘Friday Night Lights’ fame feels appropriate.
Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center in Peoria has introduced a true, hyperbole-free, game-changer into the field of imaging and heart surgery – with no plans to slow down.
Jump and Dr. Matthew Bramlet (Lead Investigator, Advanced Imaging and Modeling) are creating exact replica models of children's hearts. The potential is enormous – giving physicians and surgeons the ability to hold a physical model in hand can lead to greatly improved understanding of defects and how to treat them.
“Anything in 2D does not convey the anatomy in the best possible way,” Bramlet said, “The reason why this has taken off is that the complex 3D models give us information that is more universally understood.”
Bramlet sees 3D modeling as the next step in the evolution of imaging. Moving from x-rays to ultrasounds to CT/MRI and now onto 3D printing and modeling, doctors are most concerned with the modality that helps them make the best decisions possible.
Right away, 3D models started to factor into decisions.
“We’ve changed diagnoses and plans based on these 3D models,” Bramlet said.
Bramlet described the very first case a 3D model played a role in, where he rushed the model to a surgeon heading to the OR – the model showed an important aspect of a defect other imaging couldn’t.
After 3D heart models played a critical role in the medical decision-making process in 3 or 4 cases, Bramlet turned his attention to reach and quality control.
“We’re using a 3D printer to make medical decisions,” Bramlet explained, “The gravity of that has driven us to focus on these methods. There needs to be a level of quality control at the same level of peer review journals.”
Out of that need, came the plan for a heart library database. The goal – to make this breakthrough accessible to doctors everywhere so that children can be helped beyond the Heart of Illinois.
Bramlet sees the future in the heart library: “Our goal is to create this database where we set the stage for Big Data to take it to a level we can’t predict.”
Moving from primarily clinical work to primarily research, Bramlet is focused on reaching and impacting more and more people.
Where is the research going next? Bramlet has ambitious goals to move beyond 3D printing, leveraging emerging technology to advance the field even further:
“My goal is to have a beating-heart hologram sitting in front of a patient. In order to get there, I need better pictures being taken, I need better tools for removing the heart from imaging, and I need automated segmentation. With VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality), there is opportunity to achieve the same level of understanding as with 3D models. We need to be able to interact with it in a meaningful way.”
With Jump providing resources and Dr. Bramlet pushing research in new directions, they can’t lose.