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The software utilized on an iPhone.

New software allows for 3-D medical imaging on the go

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New medical imaging software developed by the University of Calgary faculty of medicine's Dr. Ross Mitchell may significantly assist patients with acute diseases, strokes, heart attacks or trauma.

"In acute disease, timeliness is of essence," said Dr. Mitchell in U of C Innovators. "You want to be able to provide a diagnosis and faster treatment as soon as possible, and through many trials, this software has been proven to enhance patient outcomes and reduce health care delivery costs."

Sponsored by Calgary Scientific and iCore, Resolution MD allows high-quality, interactive 3-D visualizations of medical images. While this imaging technology is typically very expensive and hard to gain access to, Mitchell's team has found a solution.

"Not having ubiquitous access is a problem . . . if you solve a clinical problem in a hospital, there is commercial potential in that technology, especially with the [state of the] health care industry today," said Dr. Mitchell.

This software is being utilized with Calgary Scientific's PureWeb virtual platform, which allows doctors to quickly access complex images on any internet browser or wireless device.

"We think that this technology could potentially represent a significant step forward in how we take care of our patients," said neuro-oncologist Dr. Jacob Easaw to Inside Business. "We can use this technology when we're on call. In the middle of the night, if I get a phone call from the hospital, I can quickly look at the image on the iPhone, and look at the MRI scan and make a treatment decision."

For the first time technology will also allow patients to see these images in 3-D, rather than 2-D cross-sections. This will make it easier for the patient to understand what is going on in their bodies, as a rotatable three-dimensional image is much clearer.

"We think that in the clinic we're going to be able to show our patients these images very easily in their room. The long-term goal would be that these programs can help teach our patients," said Easaw.

3-D imaging makes it easier to find pathology and make diagnoses. It is an important, multibillion dollar business, but the process is often bottlenecked due to its expense and technological demands.

Dr. Michael Hill, director of the stroke unit at Foothills Medical Centre, provided another example to Inside Business of how this technology can be used: "If a patient shows up in a rural setting, many kilometres away . . . if I can see their imaging, on an iPhone, on a mobile or on a desktop system, I can help that doctor in that remote location treat the patient."

Resolution MD has recently been FDA-approved, and is currently in use. A clinical trial is being developed for the first quarter of 2010, likely to last a year. The trial will attempt to measure both physicians' preferences towards the technology, as well as how helpful patients find it.

At this year's Radiological Society of North America convention the technology garnered interest from multinational giants AGFA Healthcare and Siemens Healthcare and is now working with Calgary Scientific to develop a business plan.

"It's cool knowing that these big multi-national corporations couldn't develop it but a small Alberta company could," said Dr. Mitchell.

Dr. Mitchell's team and Calgary Scientific have been developing this technology for over five years, and it is finally starting to get the attention it deserves. Dr. Mitchell recalled a conversation where Calgary Scientific's vice president of sales stated: "This year I know it's real, and it's huge."

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