Monday, October 8, 2007

Spinal Model

Occassionally something really cool comes down the pipeline at work. In this case, it's a bit of work for an orthopedic surgeon who is doing a very difficult spinal reconstruction around the new year. I think it is a corrective surgery for a congenital defect, but don't quote me on that. In any event, he wants a life-sized model of the patient's spinal column, based on pre-surgical CT data, so that he can plan things out better. I asked for this one, because it's such hot stuff. We use a special program to segment different tissues from CT and MRI data (in this case, bone). That same program can output a 3D model that can be understood by our CAD programs. A little processing later, and we can output that 3D model to our rapid prototyper, which is a sort of 3D printer that creates plastic models by extruding plastic layer-on-layer, like building a topographic map.

This picture is of a test piece I did last week, based off an image set we have from a different project. This is the first cervical vertebra, which connects to the underside of the skull. Unfortunately, the flat white plastic (and lighting) saturates most of the texture detail, but you get the idea. This is a very accurate rendering of a person's bone. We'll be doing the same for this orthopedic patient, except I'll probably end up doing most of the spinal column.

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