3D printed brain scans help diagnose MS, say doctors

A doctor has shown how 3D printed brain scans help medical professionals diagnose complex brain disorders – such as multiple sclerosis or a brain tumour.

According to the report, a 3D replica of the scanned brain gives doctors a physical interpretation of the size of the brain and, more importantly, the disease or tumour which needs looking at.

Doctor Darin Okuda, which published the research, analysed MRI scans of MS-affected brains and printed exact copies. These copies were passed to medical experts who normally use 2D images on a screen to diagnose or monitor the disease.

“What you see on plain 2-dimensional views does not give one a clear understanding as to the true shape of the lesion itself,” Dr Okuda told Tech Crunch magazine.

“By studying lesions in 3D, we are looking at these findings in an entirely different way, assessing their shape and surface characteristics.”

The medical experts were able to identify a number of features that distinguish MS lesions from other types of brain damage – which aren’t always obvious from 2D scans of the brain.

“Prior to the release of our work, we were describing multiple sclerosis lesions incorrectly,” said Dr Okuda.

“Lesions from MS are still described as being ‘ovoid’ in shape and ‘well circumscribed’ in character. Based on our 3D work, we know that this is not the case. We were amazed at the complexity of MS lesions and would argue that conventional terms previously used in our field may not be accurate after a review in physical 3D form.”

Knowing this could be the difference between a correct diagnosis and an incorrect one, he said.

In current practice, 3D imagery of brain scans is seldom used.

“It’s not as widespread as you think. Other brain lesion imaging work that you have seen likely represents efforts related to CT scans or combination CT/MRI work for pre-surgical planning (with limited surface and shape resolution).

“Although it may seem intuitive, we do not use 3D imaging in the diagnosis and management of malignant brain tumours.”

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