The New Wave of Imaging

3D, 4D & Beyond

Advancements in 3D and 4D imaging technology facilitate efficient and accurate real-time visualization of the human body, while minimizing distortion for the patient.


Children suffering from serious respiratory ailments often undergo bronchoscopy, an invasive procedure requiring anesthesia, which often results in an overnight hospital stay. Now, multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) is being used to image tiny lungs without subjecting children to anesthesia or a tube. Special post-processing analysis of CT scans means that this noninvasive procedure can match nearly all of the clinical and anatomical information gained from bronchoscopies. Plus, CT scans can see beyond airways to determine the potential cause of any narrowing, which helps doctors discriminate masses from blood vessels more accurately.

Breast tomosynthesis is used to screen an estimated three million women annually in the United States, including those with severe arthritis, osteoporosis and other conditions that make it difficult to image their breasts clearly using conventional mammography. Tomosynthesis combines multiple digital X-rays to produce a clear, 3D image that can see through overlapping breast tissue to confirm whether suspicious breast abnormalities are cancerous. Tomosynthesis also provides an image of the entire breast, which is important because 15 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have another tumor in the same or other breast.

Thanks to a new technology called stereoscopic 3D mammography, fewer women are likely to get called back for additional testing after undergoing traditional mammography screening. In a clinical trial of 1,093 women, stereoscopic digital mammography detected more true lesions than standard digital mammography and reduced false-positive findings by nearly half. The 90.9 percent accuracy of stereoscopic digital mammography—compared with 87.4 percent for standard mammography – also means earlier detection of tumors.

Since its introduction in Scotland in the 1950’s, ultrasound has been used to confirm pregnancy, determine fetal gender, detect life-threatening abnormalities of the heart, spine and brain and guide in utero surgery. Now, 4D ultrasound provides an even more dynamic image with high-frequency sound waves that capture images from multiple angles, granting three dimensional depth and detail to show real-time movement. This technology is used to investigate life in utero and help physicians identify signs of abnormal fetal behavior which may be an early indication of neurological problems.

Gallstones are one of the first things physicians consider when a patient arrives in the emergency room with sudden, severe pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. For patients who do not have gallstones, 4D ultrasound can help the physician rule out other potential conditions such as gallbladder dyskinesia, which requires a gallbladder ejection fraction test.

Unlike traditional 4D imaging, fly thru ultrasound creates the view of being inside the body during an endoscopic medical procedure. That makes it possible to see a polyp from inside the colon and then to reverse the perspective to determine its depth. This technology can detect gallstones and capture a 3600 degree image of their surface, monitor a pregnancy and scan the inside of the aorta.

Accurately measuring blood flow through key vessels before and after treatment for heart attack and stroke has long been a challenge. 4D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides a non-invasive way to measure and visualize complex blood flow in individual arteries. It also allows physicians to evaluate the entire cardiovascular system, including the heart, adjacent aorta, and carotid arteries in the neck as well as abdominal and peripheral vessels. Experts now point to the potential for 4D MRI to be used to monitor other systems in the body, including respiration.

Each year, an estimated 95,000 people in the United States have their heart valves replaced. For inoperable or high-risk patients, a new, minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement can cut the odds of repeat hospitalization by 50 percent. However, positioning the new valve can be tricky, since no two hearts are exactly the same. 3D angiography imaging software now provides vital information about a patient’s anatomy to help guide these complex procedures. Used during live fluoroscopy, 3D angiography enables the physician to obtain real-time 3D guidance while navigating an aortic valve to its intended location.

In a clinical trial of 1,093 women, stereoscopic digital mammography detected more true lesions than standard digital mammography and reduced false-positive findings by nearly half.

4D Ultrasound