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Copyright 2001

[ December 1st 2001 ]

Many fans are addicted to three-dimensional games like Tomb Raider. Well, surgeons will find more fun and relaxation in taking risky cardiac operations if the process is like exploring a complex maze.

This week, local doctors announced they have developed a new echocardiographic method, which may demonstrate the lively three-dimensional images of the interior structure of of the heart. With the assistance of a computer, the three-dimensional echocardiography provides doctors with a more accurate and detailed spatial view of the heart, which can effectively help surgeons predict the operation process and avoid risks.

The unique technology developed under the lead of Sun Kun of Shanghai Children's Medical Centre and Xinhua Hospital took the lead in China. "The clinical use of this medical technology may greatly improve diagnosis accuracy to 86 per cent. With clear images, surgeons set ideal operation programmes for the fatal complex congenital heart disease in infants," said Dr. Sun.

Inborn heart disease hits 67 of every 10,000 babies, which causes the death of about 100,000 to 150,000 infants in China. Nearly half of the heart diseases are complex heart diseases in infants. Unfortunately, half of such patients die of the fatal disease due to inaccurate diagnosis or delayed treatment.

With traditional two-dimensional echocardiographic images, surgeons need much experience and imagination to decide the malformation of the heart. The convenient and advanced three-dimensional method makes their work much easier. The process of the three-dimensional echocardiography relies on the computer.

Doctors place a sonde on the chest of the patient, and the computer will collect information about the heart from all sections. Then the data is processed and reconstructed into three-dimensional images, vividly demonstrating the heart's malformation and inner structure. Surgeons can visualize the process of the cardiac operation with the technology.

"Surgeons can place the patient's heart in hands and try to take a cut as they like. The only difference is that the process is done in the computer," Sun said. Two local hospitals have put the three-dimensional echocardiography into clinical use in two local hospitals, which will be introduced to other hospitals soon, Sun said.

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