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PLoS One. 2014 Dec 31;9(12):e115697. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115697. eCollection 2014.

Application and evaluation of interactive 3D PDF for presenting and sharing planning results for liver surgery in clinical routine.

Author information

Chair of Medical Informatics, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany.
Institute of Psychology, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany.
Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Image Computing MEVIS, Bremen, Germany.



The Portable Document Format (PDF) is the de-facto standard for the exchange of electronic documents. It is platform-independent, suitable for the exchange of medical data, and allows for the embedding of three-dimensional (3D) surface mesh models. In this article, we present the first clinical routine application of interactive 3D surface mesh models which have been integrated into PDF files for the presentation and the exchange of Computer Assisted Surgery Planning (CASP) results in liver surgery. We aimed to prove the feasibility of applying 3D PDF in medical reporting and investigated the user experience with this new technology.


We developed an interactive 3D PDF report document format and implemented a software tool to create these reports automatically. After more than 1000 liver CASP cases that have been reported in clinical routine using our 3D PDF report, an international user survey was carried out online to evaluate the user experience.


Our solution enables the user to interactively explore the anatomical configuration and to have different analyses and various resection proposals displayed within a 3D PDF document covering only a single page that acts more like a software application than like a typical PDF file ("PDF App"). The new 3D PDF report offers many advantages over the previous solutions. According to the results of the online survey, the users have assessed the pragmatic quality (functionality, usability, perspicuity, efficiency) as well as the hedonic quality (attractiveness, novelty) very positively.


The usage of 3D PDF for reporting and sharing CASP results is feasible and well accepted by the target audience. Using interactive PDF with embedded 3D models is an enabler for presenting and exchanging complex medical information in an easy and platform-independent way. Medical staff as well as patients can benefit from the possibilities provided by 3D PDF. Our results open the door for a wider use of this new technology, since the basic idea can and should be applied for many medical disciplines and use cases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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