On medical museum walls, life imitates art

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2011, 12:00am


He doesn't look much like an artist. With his thick glasses, tucked-in shirt and leather briefcase, Dr Fung Kai-hung looks like he would be more comfortable in a lab than a studio.

But his language shows a grasp of art that his appearance belies.

'This one is minimalism,' Fung says, pointing to a soft pink print of a person's vocal cords.

Hanging nearby is a print of what look like six slices of the brain, glowing in Andy-Warhol-esque glory.

'That one shows a brain after neurosurgery. That square is where the skull was cut. The contrast of the round skull and square is beautiful.'

He refers to pop art and pointillism as he describes the rest of his prints in the gallery of the Museum of Medical Sciences. He also dips into the language of medicine, talking about CT scans, MRIs and other methods used by radiologists to look into the human body - which are also the tools for creating his art.

But these prints are not just pretty renderings. They are part of a process that helps surgeons save lives.

Fung, a radiologist, is the coinventor of a method called stereoscopic robotic surgery, patented by the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, which pieces together a 3-D image of the human body to help surgeons perform increasingly intricate surgery using robots.

The technology allows doctors to see inside the body without cutting it open, with an accuracy and depth unlike before.

'It's like magic,' Fung says. 'This is not possible with the naked eye.'

He gestures towards a psychedelic image of the base of a spine.

'Mother Nature is so sophisticated in design,' he says. 'My method lets you analyse the architectural construction of the bone. It's just like building a tunnel - it shows where you have to add more concrete.'

The depth and intricacy his images reveal are particularly helpful in the minimally invasive surgery documented in the Innovations in Radiology exhibition at the museum.

Fung said it used to be impossible for surgeons to know exactly where arteries or parts of organs were, and their cuts could cause complications.

'Now we can see if there's an artery hiding behind there.'

Behind him, on a darkened screen in the gallery, a glowing 3-D illustration of a human head slowly pulsates, turning in mid-air to reveal the layers of tissue and arteries. Fung looks mesmerised by his own work.

'It's beautiful and useful,' he says.

These and other cutting-edge developments in medical visualisation will be on display at the exhibition, which starts on Saturday.