3D holographic imaging has added good value to human healthcare. While this technology has only recently been introduced to veterinary medicine, its footprint can be substantive.
Until recently, radiologists and physicians spent a lot of time and energy accurately deciphering 3D pathologies from 2D images. But radiological diagnostics no longer have to be as cumbersome as they were in the past. With the advent of 3Dholographic technology, clinicians can now analyze medical images as real-life physical objects.
3D medical imaging is in no way a new kid on the block. The technology has been around for a while, but is far more advanced now than it was in the initial launch phase around two decades ago. Today’s 3D images are much more detailed, with much less noise.
Furthermore, one of the most important breakthroughs in medical imaging technology is the advent of holography. Immersive and interactive holographic images of any multidimensional object can now be produced via specialized equipment. It is also possible to ditch the specialized machinery because the software now available can convert regular medical image datasets such as CT scans and MRIs into contiguous 3D images. These 3D images can be viewed interactively on a compatible screen, or their holographic renditions can be analyzed via a virtual reality headset.
HOW DOES 3D HOLOGRAPHIC IMAGING WORK?
Using specialized holography equipment, holographic images are recorded by shining a laser beam on an object and recording it through a medium that clarifies the image.1
The laser is split into two beams: the object and the reference beam. The object beam is made to strike the object, and some of the light reflected off that object is saved in the recording medium. The reference beam is directed toward the recording medium, where it coordinates with the object beam to form a more precise image. A virtual image is created by the interference pattern generated by the object and reference beams.2 In simple terms, the technology captures the light scattered by an object and presents it as a 3D image.
Software is also available that simply automates the process of converting CT scans and MRIs into holographic images. The software combines the different CT scan data and forms a single 3D holographic image that can be conveniently analyzed from different angles and depths.3
Based on holographic technology, we also now have augmented reality, which means holographic images can be superimposed onto the patient’s body.
WHERE THE VETERINARY INDUSTRY STANDS ON HOLOGRAPHIC TECHNOLOGY
The holographic industry is expected to show continuous growth. The factors driving the demand for this technology include higher investments in healthcare facilities, a growing need for technological advancements in surgical rooms, and individualized treatments.
A quick Google Scholar search shows that a lot of veterinary research is making use of holographic imaging tools. However, as far as the general veterinary industry is concerned, holographic imaging and augmented reality can in no way be termed the norm.4 Factors such as limited expenditure by veterinary care facilities are resulting in an overall curtailment in the use of this technology. However, the potential benefits of the technology are being appreciated, and there is an upward trend in its adoption.
When it comes to veterinary education institutes in the US, serious efforts have been made over the past few years to make use of holographic technology to enhance education delivery.5 One of many examples is the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, which invested in a 3D medicine program. The program started out with tools concerned only with 3D printing, but has grown to encompass holography and augmented reality as well.6 Completely realistic and textured 3D holographic animal models are now accessible to students in most veterinary institutes.
HOW 3D HOLOGRAPHY CAN BE USED IN VETERINARY MEDICINE
1.Aids clinicians in providing better veterinary care
Holographic technology can contribute to providing advanced veterinary care because it has brought much-needed progress to the area of medical imaging. It can be used to provide high-resolution 3D visualization of a patient’s body, which is a considerable advantage over 2D medical images.
- Radiologists and clinicians can now better understand patient anatomies and pathologies by interacting with holographic images that present realistic spatial relationships between organs and internal structures.
- Fully formed detailed 3D holographic models of animals present clinicians with the option to reach a more accurate diagnosis. The patient’s area of concern, the organs and related internal structures, can be examined in an interactive way via holograms to pinpoint the root cause of the problem.
- The benefits of holographic technology are not limited to diagnosis. Holographic images make it possible for veterinary surgeons to identify individual anatomical nuances. Surgical planning can be sharpened and individualized by having detailed information about the animal via holographic images. This results in higher surgery success rates and fewer complications.
- Holographic technology can also be used for surgical rehearsal, which allows surgeons to familiarize themselves with the surgical environment without having to face surgery time pressure.
- The digital availability of 3D holograms allows veterinary professionals to easily share them with pet owners. This means clients are better informed about their pets’ conditions, and feel more confident about the course of treatment.
- Veterinarians can also share digital holograms with other veterinary clinicians and experts in real-time, for a second opinion. This has the potential to drastically improve veterinary care.
- Veterinarians can further benefit from augmented reality, which allows the superimposition of holographic images onto the animal’s body in real-time. The superimposed images can be viewed in conjunction with specialized headsets that can present extra information to the veterinary surgeon, thus optimizing the surgical procedure. This literally translates to surgeons having X-ray vision, along with digitally displayed information such as heart rate. Traditionally, veterinary surgeons had to move back and forth between the patient and the 2D medical images on their computer screens while performing surgery. Now, holography and augmented reality can ensure all the relevant information is in the surgeon’s field of view.
- 3D holography can help get rid of uncomfortable physical procedures. It can also be useful in screening for problems when intricate organs such as the brain or heart are involved.7
2. Improves veterinary education
Giving veterinary students the best possible education is of the utmost importance. Well-trained veterinary graduates translate to healthy animals. To achieve a better standard of education, holographic technology has a considerable role to play.
Veterinary students sometimes lack complete comprehension of the spatial relationships between different anatomical structures. The skill of mentally visualizing a patient’s area of concern is key to achieving good diagnosis and error-free surgeries.
3D holographic imaging can enhance veterinary education by providing students with novel methods of anatomical understanding. The technology allows students to experience an elaborate study of patient anatomy and organs without worrying about resource constraints. Students can learn the anatomy of various animals in a more detailed and interactive manner. Virtual reality headsets can significantly enhance their study experience by making it more exciting.
Holographic imaging can also be used to better train students for conducting surgeries. The technology can facilitate a virtual environment where they can practice and polish their surgical skills.
The technology helps students experience an individualized approach to education. They no longer have to conform to a set way of learning. The traditional use of manuals and pre-planned dissections can be done away with, and students can have the freedom to learn as they will. The novel visualization methods and the freedom they bring also incite more affinity for learning in students.
3. Contributes to research
Since its introduction to medical science, holography has validated its worth by providing not only better veterinary healthcare and education, but also new tools for research and development. Holographic microscopy is being extensively used to conduct non-invasive studies at a cellular level. The technology has also been helpful in analyzing drug responses and for conducting a better evaluation of clinical trials. Digital holography can also be used in multidimensional sensing.8
FUTURE TRENDS AND DIRECTION
Holographic technology can potentially impact every aspect of our lives, but healthcare and veterinary medicine are the fields that can benefit the most. The further advancement of holographic technology involves efforts to introduce realistic images that do not require specialized glasses or headsets. It is expected that gearless holographic displays and floating holographic images will become mainstream in the near future. The future application of holography may go as far as introducing “holo veterinarians.” A veterinarian will be able to see detailed holograms of diseased animals and provide treatment remotely. Holography will also prove helpful in manufacturing pharmaceuticals and healthcare products. With time, various advanced holography applications are destined to emerge, and will significantly improve both human and veterinary healthcare services.
1. Tahara T, Quan X, Otani R, Takaki Y, Matoba O. Digital holography and its multidimensional imaging applications: a review. Microscopy (Oxf). 2018;67(2):55-67. doi:10.1093/jmicro/dfy007.
2. Haleem A, Javaid M, Khan IH. Holography applications toward the medical field: An overview.Indian J Radiol Imaging. 2020;30(3):354-361. doi:10.4103/ijri.IJRI_39_20.
3. Handwerk B. Medical holograms are now part of the surgeon’s toolkit. Smithsonianmag.com.March 27, 2015. Accessed May 5, 2022.https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/medical-holograms-are-now-part-surgeons-toolkit-180954791/.
4. Wilkie N, McSorley G, Creighton C, Sanderson D, Muirhead T, Bressan N. Mixed Reality forVeterinary Medicine: Case Study of a Canine Femoral Nerve Block. Annu Int Conf IEEE Eng MedBiol Soc. 2020 Jul;2020:6074-6077. doi: 10.1109/EMBC44109.2020.9175620. PMID: 33019356.
5. Norman G. Willis, Fonda A. Monroe, J, et al. Envisioning the Future of Veterinary Medical Education: The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Foresight Project, Final Report. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 2007 34:1, 1-41.
7. Adorno S. Augmented reality at Penn Vet. Published April 3, 2018. Accessed May 5, 2022.https://www.vet.upenn.edu/about/news-room/bellwether/penn-vet-extra/penn-vet-extra-april-2018/augmented-reality-at-penn-vet.
7. Mishra S. Hologram the future of medicine – From Star Wars to clinical imaging. Indian Heart J.2017;69(4):566-567. doi:10.1016/j.ihj.2017.07.017.
8. Tahara T, Quan X, Otani R, Takaki Y, Matoba O. Digital holography and its multidimensional imaging applications: a review. Microscopy (Oxf). 2018;67(2):55-67. doi:10.1093/jmicro/dfy007.
Dr. Omer Rashid earned his veterinary degree in 2002 from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, and quickly followed that with a Master’s degree in Parasitology. He worked for several years in veterinary practice with small animals, as well as horses and livestock. He studied advanced pharmacology at Charles Darwin University in Australia, and discovered his love for writing while working as a science writer for a research company with clients such as Harvard, Stanford and Cambridge universities. Along the way, Dr. Rashid developed an interest in integrative veterinary health, and he joined Redstone Media Group as Associate Editor of IVC Journal and veterinary content developer in 2022.