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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 14:00 GMT
Beating heart in 3D
Surgery
The device could aid beter diagnosis of heart problems
Surgeons can, for the first time, see live, 3D images of a beating heart without having to carry out exploratory surgery.

The state-of-the-state technology is already being tested by a team at King's College Hospital, London.

It means more accurate and quicker diagnosis of problems because the images show the structure and function of the heart as it actually is

Dr Mark Monaghan
They hope that it will eventually be used to treat hundreds of patients a year at the hospital.

The device, the Philips Live 3D echo machine, works by using ultrasound in a similar way to the method used by submarines to navigate.

High frequency sound waves are sent into the body via a handheld scanner that is passed over the area that needs to be viewed.

These sound waves are then reflected back to the hand-scanner as they encounter internal organs, bones and tissue, producing varying pitched echoes.

A computer processor converts all the data that the scanner has gathered into 3D images.

The probe can be moved along the surface of the body and angled to obtain various views.

Better diagnosis

Dr Mark Monaghan, cardiac clinical director at King's, said: "This equipment means that we can see views of the heart that were previously unobtainable.

"It means more accurate and quicker diagnosis of problems because the images show the structure and function of the heart as it actually is.

"Not only are the images of immense use for doctors to show one another, we can also use them to show to patients and their families and hopefully alleviate some of the fear around their condition.

"If we do need to carry out a procedure it means that we will have a better understanding of the challenges that will be faced in surgery or other interventional heart treatments.

"The technology is quick and easy to use which is important if patients are in great or pain or if they are small a child and not able to stay still for long periods."

See also:

16 Dec 02 | Health
23 Oct 00 | Health
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