Real-time three-dimensional ultrasound for guiding surgical tasks

Jeremy W. Cannon*, Jeffrey A. Stoll, Ivan S. Salgo, Heather B. Knowles, Robert D. Howe, Pierre E. Dupont, Gerald R. Marx, Pedro J. Del Nido

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Objective: As a stand-alone imaging modality, two-dimensional (2D) ultrasound (US) can only guide basic interventional tasks due to the limited spatial orientation information contained in these images. High-resolution real-time three-dimensional (3D) US can potentially overcome this limitation, thereby expanding the applications for US-guided procedures to include intracardiac surgery and fetal surgery, while potentially improving results of solid organ interventions such as image-guided breast, liver or prostate procedures. The following study examines the benefits of real-time 3D US for performing both basic and complex image-guided surgical tasks. Materials and Methods: Seven surgical trainees performed three tasks in an acoustic testing tank simulating an image-guided surgical environment using 2D US, biplanar 2D US, and 3D US for guidance. Surgeon-controlled US imaging was also tested. The evaluation tasks were (1) bead-in-hole navigation; (2) bead-to-bead navigation; and (3) clip fixation. Performance measures included completion time, tool tip trajectory, and error rates, with endoscope-guided performance serving as a gold-standard reference measure for each subject. Results: Compared to 2D US guidance, completion times decreased significantly with 3D US for both bead-in-hole navigation (50%, p = 0.046) and bead-to-bead navigation (77%, p = 0.009). Furthermore, tool-tip tracking for bead-to-bead navigation demonstrated improved navigational accuracy using 3D US versus 2D US (46%, p = 0.040). Biplanar 2D imaging and surgeon-controlled 2D US did not significantly improve performance as compared to conventional 2D US. In real-time 3D mode, surgeon-controlled imaging and changes in 3D image presentation made by adjusting the perspective of the 3D image did not diminish performance. For clip fixation, completion times proved excessive with 2D US guidance (< 240 s). However, with real-time 3D US imaging, completion times and error rates were comparable to endoscope-guided performance. Conclusions: Real-time 3D US can guide basic surgical tasks more efficiently and accurately than 2D US imaging. Real-time 3D US can also guide more complex surgical tasks which may prove useful for procedures where optical imaging is suboptimal, as in fetal surgery or intracardiac interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-90
Number of pages9
JournalComputer Aided Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D ultrasound
  • image-guided intervention
  • instrument tracking
  • minimally invasive surgery


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