The Body in 3D

The Body in 3D

3D imaging technology has revolutionized medicine, arming doctors with more information to diagnose and treat patients.

The advancements in imaging technology are staggering. Doctors today have advanced imaging equipment — including ultrasound, CT, MRI and other techniques — to capture comprehensive images of the human body.

We visited Meng Law, MD, professor of radiology in the Department of Radiology at Keck Medicine of USC to discuss the advantages to 3D imaging and how it improves patient care.

“With 2D imaging, it was difficult to determine the size, shape and location of a tumor or lesion,” says Dr. Law, a neuroradiology expert. “Now, with 3D images, we can view the cross-sections of the organ or area and more accurately diagnose and remove it.”

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Types of 3D Imaging Technology

There are three types of 3D imaging currently used.


Ultrasounds use high-frequency sound waves to produce real-time, tomographic images of the body. There is no radiation involved, so it’s safe for children and pregnant women.

Ultrasound is commonly used for solid organs of the abdomen: the liver, spleen, kidney and pancreas, as well as vascular structures. However, ultrasound is most known as the imaging technology for seeing a 3D image of a baby in the womb. A 4D ultrasound videos the baby and helps doctors identify birth defects.


Both computerized axial tomography (CT or CAT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates images of cross-sections of the body. These scans:

  • Create comprehensive images of organs, tissue and bone.
  • Evaluate whether a disease has spread.
  • Help determine if surgery is a good treatment option.

Advantages of 3D Imaging Technology

Images of cross-sections of the body help medical providers diagnose and eliminate some invasive diagnostic procedures.

This technology is a game changer in almost every aspect of medicine. Among the benefits:

It Saves Time

Higher image quality and faster scan times make it quicker and easier for a radiologist to review and diagnose an area of the body instead of having to focus on individual cross sections. The faster scan time also results in fewer errors from movement and alleviates patient stress and a better patient experience.

A Better Diagnosis

These high-tech images provide a more comprehensive view that is not possible with 2D scans. Subsequently, diagnoses are more accurate, which can eliminate more invasive diagnostic procedures.

No Surprises

With 2D technology, there are more unknown factors before surgery. In the past, surgery was a tool used to identify a problem. Now, with 3D imaging, surgery has become the definitive therapeutic intervention.

Detailed 3D images provide the doctor with comprehensive information needed for developing the best surgical plan.

Even better, once 3D images are captured, a 3D model can be printed. “We can print models of organs so that a surgeon can evaluate the model and figure out how to remove a tumor,” says Dr. Law. “This decreases the chance of surprise during the operation and ultimately improves patient treatment and care.”

Keck Medicine offers patients the full range of imaging modalities — all in one convenient location. Our radiologists subspecialize in specific areas of the body. This ensures specific expertise, which increases their ability to better diagnose and identify any problems.

Keck Medicine is also home to the USC 4D Quantitative Imaging Center, a service for patient care that features moving 3D images, as well as a 3D printer that can print body parts and organs in 3D to help a surgeon plan surgery. We also have other advanced image analysis technology, which can assess blood flow, the biochemistry from MR spectroscopy and volumetric quantitation of normal and abnormal tissue in various organs.

Need more information about 3D imaging capabilities? Radiology services at Keck Medicine are highly specialized and fully integrated, providing the most important advances in state-of-the-art technology to our patients.

by Heidi Tyline King

If you are in the Southern California area and in search of a radiologist, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit to schedule an appointment.