A digital 3D model of a horse extremity showing both skeletal and related soft tissue structures will be making an appearance at the 62nd Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners in Orlando next month (Dec. 3-7th). Two years in the making, the model was created to show the location of bones and tissues in a normal lower equine extremity as well as their interrelationship. The lower extremity and hoof are among the most important and vulnerable anatomical structures in the horse.
The project began two years ago when 3D Visualization Specialist Gary Wisser received a request from Dr. Babak Faramarzi, Associate Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, for scans of the equine lower extremity. At that time, soft tissue scans were considered infeasible due to deformations and position shifts that typically occur during the scanning process, so the scans were limited to skeletal structures. The scanned bones were printed and used as in-class teaching aids.
The project was recently revived when Dr. Faramarzi needed more extensive scans of the lower extremity to illustrate research he was invited to present at upcoming conferences. This time, the soft tissue scans would be crucial, and Gary was put in touch with a third year student of Dr. Faramarzi, Athena Kepler, to see if CT scans could be used to provide the missing visual data. However, advances in WesternU’s scanning technology over the last two years – including improvements in color and overall quality—ultimately provided a better solution. “When we started the project, we realized CT scans could capture physical attributes, but little color information. Initially, Athena agreed to perform a dissection of the extremity so could photograph the tissues, but since we were dissecting anyway, I wanted to see if I could get decent scans of them. So I brought the tissues back to the office and found ways to support them to minimize shape change during the scanning process. Afterwards, I was also able to divide the scanned images into separate sections and re-align them to compensate for any shape change.”
Once the necessary scans were obtained, Educational Design Specialist Jeff Macalino optimized the files and assembled the digital structures into a 3D model that Dr. Faramarzi could manipulate. The Unity3D viewer that was ultimately used to display the virtual extremity allowed him to rotate, zoom in, disarticulate, and hide or expose structures as needed. “We created the app with flexibility in mind and a simple goal of being able to easily view detailed anatomical structures.”
The model was introduced last month when Dr. Faramarzi was invited to present at the Student Chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. After its initial release, Jeff did some additional work on the model to merge the digital images of structures that had been severed during the dissection process. An updated version of the model was made available in mid-October.
For a brief prerecorded demonstration of the 3D equine lower extremity model, click here.
The 3D model is currently being used by Vet Med students as a learning tool in Dr. Faramarzi’s Equine Surgery course. However, he sees the model as a work in progress: “I’d like to see more proximal limb anatomical structures added to the model as well as show the muscle/tendon and ligament origins and insertions. We also want to add vasculature and nerves to the model. Jeff is working on making the model more transparent so we can show more structures in a single view.”
Future plans have been discussed to wrap the model into a more gamified Unity3D interface that provides descriptive information, self-scoring quizzes, and other study aids. Dr. Faramarzi: “It may be useful to add some radiographs of the same anatomical region so students can better relate gross and radiographic anatomy. We can also provide more clinical instruction by showing, for example, the joint capsule/area and using anatomical landmarks for joint injection or diagnostic analgesia.”
For more information on this project, contact:
Babar Faramarzi, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, at bfaramarzi@westernu..edu
Gary Wisser, 3D Visualization Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org