A `Heart Hologram' That Helps Doctors Spot Defects

Cardiologists have a less than ideal way to look at someone's heart: ultrasound systems that produce flat, two-dimensional images. But doctors at the New England Medical Center in Boston are taking ultrasound one step further by developing 3-D images of the heart called heart holograms.

Using technology developed by Voxel Inc. in Laguna Hills, Calif., Dr. Mani A. Vannan and his colleague, Dr. Natesa G. Pandian, have been experimenting with the technique on pigs. Some 120 ultrasound scans of an animal's heart are imprinted on a single piece of X-ray film. Then, the film is placed in a box containing prisms and a standard white light. "It creates the appearance that you can actually put your finger inside the heart," says Vannan. The image is life-size, so doctors can precisely measure defects. While heart holograms still must be shown to work consistently in humans, Vannan says early research is "promising" and could be a widely available supplement to standard ultrasound.

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