3-D visualization in biomedical applications

Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 1999:1:377-99. doi: 10.1146/annurev.bioeng.1.1.377.


Visualizable objects in biology and medicine extend across a vast range of scale, from individual molecules and cells through the varieties of tissue and interstitial interfaces to complete organs, organ systems, and body parts. These objects include functional attributes of these systems, such as biophysical, biomechanical, and physiological properties. Visualization in three dimensions of such objects and their functions is now possible with the advent of high-resolution tomographic scanners and imaging systems. Medical applications include accurate anatomy and function mapping, enhanced diagnosis, accurate treatment planning and rehearsal, and education/training. Biologic applications include study and analysis of structure-to-function relationships in individual cells and organelles. The potential for revolutionary innovation in the practice of medicine and in biologic investigations lies in direct, fully immersive, real-time multisensory fusion of real and virtual information data streams into online, real-time visualizations available during actual clinical procedures or biological experiments. Current high-performance computing, advanced image processing, and high-fidelity rendering capabilities have facilitated major progress toward realization of these goals. With these advances in hand, there are several important applications of three-dimensional visualization that will have a significant impact on the practice of medicine and on biological research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / surgery
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Neurosurgical Procedures
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Video-Assisted Surgery