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3-D software helps patients visualize surgery

June 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Talking to your doctor about undergoing surgery is a tough conversation to have. But new technology is making it easier for patients to understand how it will affect them. It may help people take a more active role in their own health.

Let's say you're getting an abdominal procedure. There's a type of 3-D representation that clearly shows you what your surgeon is going to do. In a 2-dimensional illustration, you wouldn't be able to see your spleen or your pancreas.

But with this software, you can see where each organ is positioned and which path your surgeon might take. Seeing all this helps patients who are scared of surgery.

"I'm someone who had never had a surgery, never had anything go wrong, so there's a high level of fear that's associated with anything that's invasive to the body," said Kenneth Pride, 57, a Playa del Rey school principal.

The 3-D tutorial is what helped Pride decide to get a Lap-Band procedure several months ago. Pride saw exactly what his bariatric surgeon, Dr. Michael Feiz, was going to do and it alleviated his fears.

"Seeing is believing, and perception is reality," said Pride. "When you can add additional senses to your learning process, then your retention goes higher."

"Nothing empowers a patient more than having knowledge and exactly understanding what's going to be done to them, how it's going to benefit them, what the risks and benefits are," said Feiz.

Body Maps is an interactive medically guided 3-D visual tool for consumers, but surgeons like Feiz find it's a valuable tool because it gets patients involved.

"You want them on your team because they're going to help the treatment go better and be more successful," said Feiz.

Feiz says not only does it help patient understand a procedure -- being educated and better informed helps them with recovery.

"Not having knowledge of your own health is probably one of the most fear-provoking things," said Feiz. "And the more knowledge you have, the more empowerment you have, the smoother result you're going to have."

And a realistic, virtual view of how disease destroys organ and tissue may also help patients maintain healthier habits.

Since his surgery, Pride has lost about 80 pounds. He's having a little trouble with heartburn. While this might discourage some patients, Pride can see and understand why this is happening. Seeing what needs to be done to correct it makes him feel in control.

"Just getting a doctor's time is expensive and time-consuming, and scheduling an appointment can sometimes be difficult, so having, again, that additional resource is extremely valuable," said Pride.

In addition to the 3-D maps, the site has all kinds of other practical information.

There's a medical dictionary that translates anatomical terms into concepts that are easier to understand, for example translating "patella" into "kneecap."


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