The creation of our high fidelity anatomical 3D models

February 18, 2019

The human anatomy is a complex web of interconnected three-dimensional structures, demanding the highest levels of accuracy and fidelity from anyone seeking to depict it. Despite this, contemporary anatomy education materials are primarily presented in only two dimensions (e.g. books, mobile apps). We believe that by moving to a three-dimensional approach to anatomy education from the very beginning, future surgeons will be given the best possible start.

Simply making the shift to 3D alone doesn't accomplish much if the material being presented isn't sufficiently detailed. Surgery demands a high level of detail and precision, so why should the teaching material be any different? For surgeons of all experience levels wishing to hone their ability to perceive important anatomical structures, being able to revise using high-detail, high-resolution anatomical models is critical.

So, we needed precise, accurate, high-resolution 3D anatomical models; why not just purchase them or outsource the work? After reviewing many options, we kept coming up short. Each would force us to sacrifice anatomical correctness, a high level of detail, or both. To overcome this, we decided that creating our own materials in-house was the only way to be sure we weren't sacrificing any of the critical ingredients. Enter 3D Medical Illustrator Matt Briggs.

Creating anatomical 3D models at Osgenic -Matt Briggs’ story

When we found him, Matt was teaching illustration at the University of Sunderland. We learned he’d won an award for his impressive 3D anatomical illustration of the hand, having the high level of fidelity and accuracy we were looking for. His skill, combined with the fact that the first procedure in our development roadmap happened to be a hand procedure, meant we’d found the perfect match. Matt joined our team in the beginning of 2018.

In addition to producing anatomical illustrations at Osgenic, Matt is also a member of the Medical Artists’ Association of Great Britain (MAA), and will give a presentation on virtual reality at their 70th Anniversary in Cambridge in April 2019.

How did you end up working as a medical illustrator?

Originally I studied Scientific illustration for my degree which mostly involved illustrating animals and anything to do with natural history. I was then lucky enough to be offered a job as a senior medical artist in the National Health Services England (NHS) where I worked for around 14 years. Whilst working there I completed a post graduate diploma in Medical Art with the MAET (Medical Artists’ Education Trust) at the Royal College of Surgeons and then went on to study for a Master’s degree in Medical Art. I would say I fall in the Artist/Illustrator category but with a particular interest in clinical anatomy. Most of the illustrations I produce are commissioned by medical professionals who provide the medical expertise and let me know exactly what they are trying to show, it’s then up to me to illustrate that in the best way I can.

Can you tell us about roots of anatomical illustration, its current state and the future?

Medical illustration actually dates back thousands of years. There are examples of medical procedures being visually recorded in Ancient Egypt. In terms of modern medical illustration there have been several key figures starting with Andreas Vesalius who produced a comprehensive anatomical text full of medical illustrations called De humani corporis fabrica, published in 1543. Although illustrative techniques became more sophisticated and medical knowledge improved, illustrated books remained relatively unchanged for centuries. Printed books are still one of the most effective and popular ways of learning human anatomy and there is still a huge demand for new illustrations of anatomy, medical procedures and medical devices. However, the last few decades has brought some revolutionary changes to the way anatomy and medicine are illustrated. The explosion in new digital technologies continues to provide opportunities for new and innovative ways of teaching and learning anatomy and medicine.

What differences do you see comparing anatomical illustration in 3D and in 2D?

I’m still amazed every time I use a virtual reality system and it’s difficult not to see the amazing potential that VR and AR has in terms of medical education. The ability to see an anatomical structure as if it were really right there in front of you and even touch and interact with things is a huge advantage over 2D static illustrations. 3D can be quite tricky to learn and has a steep learning curve compared with 2D drawing techniques so requires a great deal of investment of time. Also when creating a digital 3D model it is necessary to make sure that it looks right from multiple angles whereas a flat illustration is only concerned with one particular viewpoint.

Can you describe the process of generating anatomical 3D models from medical images?

CT and MRI scans can be used to create a 3D reconstruction which can then be used as a guide for creating the 3D models. This ensures the models are as accurate as possible and can be used to look at several different tissue types such as bone and even blood vessels. This is then used along with a variety of different sources of reference material including illustrated books, apps, direct observation and years of experience working in the healthcare sector.

What are your experiences and views on presenting 3D human anatomy models in virtual reality?

I think that the stereoscopic nature of VR and AR is what adds the incredible depth to the visualisations and I think the ability to look around and even move around in a virtual world is what makes the experience so much more immersive. I think that the technologies that are being added to VR and AR such as haptic feedback also add a great deal of potential in terms of creating a more immersive experiences. I think simulation is an area of the VR and AR industry that seems to have been particularly successful.

How do you see the future of anatomical illustration, medical imaging and virtual reality?

I think there is now the opportunity to explore and experiment with what VR and AR can offer in terms of medical training but also how it might even be used in surgical planning and clinical pathways. I think medical training is an area of the VR and AR industry that seems to have been particularly successful.

How has it been to work with the Osgenic team?

Working with the Osgenic team has been great, the team consists of expert coders, surgeons and 3D artists from all over the world all combining their skills to create a ground breaking product. Also, the team all share the genuine aim of creating a product that will make surgery safer and help surgeons to be as prepared as possible. I think the most exciting part of working for Osgenic is being part of a new wave of medical education and I’m looking forward to seeing how VR will transform the industry.

Osgenic is using these models to deliver a new and intuitive way for surgeons to prepare for surgical procedures. We are partnering with Varjo - developers of the first human eye resolution virtual reality headset. Joining forces enables us to not only develop a highly realistic experience, but also deliver it.

About Osgenic

We are creating a new environment where surgeons can prepare for procedures safely. Our mission is to make surgery safer for patients and surgeons.

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