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Surprising Science

3D Handheld Scanners Coming To A Doctor’s Office Near You

Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a handheld scanner that will give primary care physicians the same kind of 3D imaging that surgeons have had for years.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A team of engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a handheld device that uses a 3D scanning technique — optical coherence tomography (OCT) — that’s similar to that used for ultrasound imaging. The device “would give [primary care] doctors a way to quantitatively monitor [chronic] conditions, and possibly make more efficient and accurate referrals to specialists.” The team, which along with an international group of collaborators recently received $5 million in grant money to further refine the device, plans to present their findings at the Frontiers in Optics conference on October 16.

What’s the Big Idea?

Physician and biomedical engineer Stephen Boppart says that the instruments found in most primary care physicians’ offices “are essentially magnifying glasses.” Obtaining 3D images of the eye in an examination room setting would be of particular benefit to diabetics, up to 45 percent of whom develop a condition called retinopathy that can lead to more serious eye damage in the future. The scanner may also catch changes in the eye that could indicate an onset of diabetes. Boppart believes that with additional engineering changes and lower production costs, the device could eventually become a common tool in doctors’ offices.

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