Virtual colonoscopy


Stony Brook University School of Medicine


Arie Kaufman, PhD, of the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook Medicine


Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide that claims about 677,000 men and women annually, according to the World Health Organization. However, studies show that much more than half of all Americans 50 and older aren’t getting colonoscopies, possibly because the procedure is scary. A conventional colonoscopy using a fiber optic endoscope is invasive and expensive, and requires a day of preparation involving harsh laxatives and usually a day for the procedure since the patient must be sedated. A conventional colonoscopy also carries the risk of perforation of the colon wall and even a small risk of death. The virtual colonoscopy is far less invasive and expensive. This innovative computer graphics technology puts computed tomography (CT) images of the patient’s abdomen together into a high quality 3-D computerized model of the patient’s colon. This allows a radiologist to virtually “fly through” the patient’s colon, from beginning to end, and around all folds, seeing 100 percent of its surface as opposed to the estimated 77 percent with conventional colonoscopy, and thoroughly searching for polyps, the precursors of colon cancer, which are often as small as a few millimeters.


Approved for use by FDA in 2004