It is estimated that there are over 120 million CT & MRI scans performed each year in the United States, and that number continues to trend upwards. The advances in acquisition technology are creating large datasets that can be optimized by 3D post-processing; a task that requires the expertise of the internal radiology staff or an outsourced lab solution. Currently, 3D post-processing is not recognized as its own credentialed branch but is included in the general duties of the CT or MRI technologist.
3D post-processing involves an extensive amount of knowledge relating to cross-sectional anatomy, vasculature, disease, and pathology. Additionally, learning the intricacies of various advanced visualization software platforms can require an entirely unique skillset. In most instances, the processing platforms are separate from the scanning equipment and have a distinct interface. The training provided by OEM companies is typically limited. A new technologist can require up to 12 months to establish competency in 3D post-processing, similar to being cross-trained in another radiologic modality.
With no clear career path, there is little incentive to pursue training, and the pool of dedicated 3D technologists is sparse. Recruiting experienced 3D techs is costly for hospitals, and in-house training is resource-consuming. Without properly educated 3D technologists, anatomy can be misrepresented for diagnosis, and expensive post-processing software and hardware may not be adequately utilized.
With the demand for 3D post-processing continuing to increase and the large quantity of knowledge and expertise required for competency, it may be time to consider creating a radiologic subspecialty for 3D post-processing.