How thoracic surgeons and visualization specialists revealed the aggressive spread of Covid-19 in lungs

When Covid-19 hit the world, visualization software company Interspectral started looking for experts in the field of virology, radiology, infectious diseases and microbiology with the objective of compiling a digital Corona-themed exhibit for its global customers within science communication and public education. A critical step to the development of a validated and fact-based exhibition, was to find actual CT-scans of an infected patient to reveal the effect that the Covid-19 disease can have on the human lungs and respiratory system.

Long into their search for images of infected lungs, Interspectral came across the work of Dr. Altair Costa and Norman Gellada. Together they started to produce an interactive 3D visualization to showcase four different stages of the COVID-19 disease based on Dr. Costa’s Chest CT scans with visualization support from Norman.

Dr. Costa’s CT scans showing the spread of covid-19 in a patient’s lungs, visualized and displayed in Inside Explorer

Driven by a joint passion for 3D imaging

Dr. Altair Costa is a thoracic surgeon at the Federal University Hospital in Sâo Paolo, Brazil. He graduated his medical studies in 1991, finished his specialization ten years later and has been a surgeon for the past 19 years. “I’m also a teacher and researcher within respiratory diseases”, Dr. Costa tells.

Dr. Costa uses 3D technology to easier see, understand and explain diseases, as well as plan for surgeries.

“I love 3D technology,” he says and continues with a comparison. “I like to compare computerized games to medical images. By 1986 the Batman was 8 bits, quite a funny design with square pixels. The same was a tomography – grey images with poor resolution. But look at Batman now, in 2020: a 4K image, coloured, perfect shadows and perspectives. However, the CT is still the same grey image, with much better resolution of course, but nothing compared to Batman. We need to change it, urgently”.

CT scans from 12 May 2020 showing the signs of COVID-19 infection and inflammation, visualized and displayed in Inside Explorer

Dr. Costa is convinced that the public will not learn much by just looking at conventional CT-scans and he discloses that even some physicians have difficulties to understand the CT images. But with 3D technology it is easy to see and realize what a disease can do to your body. The damages become clear and tangible.

It is the shared passion and strong believe in the power of 3D imaging that paved the way for Dr. Costa’s and Norman Gellada’s joint work, and contribution to Interspectral’s exhibition.

Norman works as an imaging specialist with focus on 3D and advance visualization at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles. “We mostly provide presurgical planning and reference for physicians and surgeons. Images are also used for research, patient education and compliance”, Norman reveals.

3D image of COVID-19 infected lungs. Credit: Norman Gellada

Norman is a military veteran with a background as a corpsman (medic). He left the military and started his radiology studies. He was later hired at Cedars-Sinai where he has been working with 3D visualization for the past 10 years.

He sees radiology as the eyes of medicine, with so much information that one can learn from studying CT scans. “It’s a treasure trove of great information”.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

As a specialist and surgeon, Dr. Costa is prepared to both treat and face complex pathologies while making safe and fast decisions. “But with Covid-19, it was all different. Not only because of the new kind of virus but also because of the panic in the air,” Dr. Costa says. He tells that the Covid-19 situation in Brazil is still scary even if it has cooled off a bit. “I have never experienced anything like Covid-19 before! I was practicing medicine during the HIV-epidemic and the H1N1 pandemic, but they were nothing like the Covid-19.”

He also adds that with time, experience, composure, and science, they were able to manage each patient better and better as they learned. “We must believe in science! And with trustable information we will carry on with our lives and be safe,” Dr. Costa says. “It is more than possible; it is a necessity.”

With a long background within medical visualization, Norman agrees that he has never experienced anything like the corona virus before. “I think this pandemic surprised the whole world! The fact that it is a novel virus makes it very hard for the medical and scientific community to understand this virus. We had to learn on the fly as new science comes out regarding how this virus works and evolves.”

COVID-19 infected lungs Credit: Norman Gellada

3D imaging supports medical professionals in their understanding of the novel coronavirus and its effect on humans. Norman emphasis that, “The cytokine storm and its effects on the lungs and the rest of the body was bad to see on patients. The fact it was caused by a virus we did not understand was frightening. But as we progress in both science and understanding of this virus, it got less frightening to us.”

No doubt about sharing their insights with the world

Norman did not hesitate one second when asked to share his work with the rest of the world. “I’m all about collaborations, especially an international one. I’ve always enjoyed doing projects that involve my specialty and it’s a great honor to have the opportunity to be part of this COVID-19 exhibition with Interspectral. The public can greatly benefit from this by better understanding this disease. The interactive exhibition is really something to see. You must see it for yourself to really appreciate it. I was really impressed with the result.”

Dr. Costa’s CT scans showing the spread of covid-19 in a patient’s lungs, visualized and displayed in Inside Explorer

Dr. Costa replied with the same enthusiasm. “One aspect that differ us humans from other species is our capacity to collaborate with people we do not know, never have meet and still do a great job. When Interspectral and Norman contacted me about this project, it was clear to me that I had to get in.”

“And as Interspectral showed me their software (Inside Explorer), I realized how amazing it was. Awesome! It would be too selfish to keep this kind of information just for us. It deserves to be spread.”

More information

The Corona Exhibition by Interspectral is available to purchase for any science centre, museum, school, or public venue looking to reveal the aggressive spread of Covid-19 in lungs. Learn more about the Corona exhibition here

Press release and media

Download press release + Images / Video (Dropbox)

For questions please contact:
Sofie Zackrisson, Marketing & Communications, Interspectral

Updated: 13 Nov 2020

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