Medical Augmented Reality is changing surgery

Posted Nov 14, 2017 by Tim Sandle
Surgeons are making use of Medical Augmented Reality to increase the field of vision when undertaking medical procedures. This process offers improvements to conventional surgical methods.
File photo: A surgical team from Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, performs ear surgery.
Photo by John Asselin, U.S. Air Force
Medical Augmented Reality systems provide the medic with a three-dimensional image of the inside of the human body. The imaging also shows any surgical implements used by the surgeon in action. This can be shown to the surgeon via a head-set, rather than a slightly more cumbersome display adjacent to the operating table. An alternative is to project an image, including images superimposed onto the surgical bed.
Key to how this works is integrated the augmented imaging with a camera image of the real environment. To be effective this needs to fit easily into the surgeon’s workflow. Despite various innovations there remains some way to go with the development of the technology.
Nevertheless there are some devices that offer advantages to surgeons. One such device is the C-arm, which uses a visualization system called the C-cam. This device using augmented reality and is used for cancer surgery. By improving the success of the surgery, by removing a greater proportion of cancerous material, this reduces the amount of post-operative treatment the patient requires (in the form of radiation or chemotherapy).
The Mobile C-arm fluoroscopic X-ray system can be used for a variety of diagnostic imaging and minimally invasive surgical procedures. The device projects a patient’s X-ray images onto their body during surgery. This involves rendering a three-dimensional image of the body onto a two-dimensional plane. To be effective the projector projects from the perspective of the X-ray source and the user views the patient from this direction is all the information of an X-ray image visualized correctly.
In practice the C-arm has been used for visualizing kidney drainage, abdominal and thoracic aortic aneurysm repair, percutaneous valve replacements, cardiac surgery, vascular surgery, gastroenterology, neuro stimulation, orthopedics and neurology.
Speaking with the website Healthcare in Europe, Dr Ulrich Eck, who is the Senior Research Scientist for Computer Aided Medical Procedures and Augmented Reality at the Department of Informatics, Technical University of Munich, outlined the advantages of technology like the C-arm.
Dr. Dr Eck said: “Minimally invasive procedures use endoscopes for imaging; the surgeon mainly operates with the help of images transmitted by the endoscope. As the image data is acquired and visualized electronically this type of platform is particularly suitable for the visualization of additional information, such as pre-operative image data (or intra-operative image data.”
For the surgeon to visualize the images the next step will be for a pair of data glasses are worn. However, there are still improvements to be made with head-sets, in terms of ergonomics. Such devices also need to be sterilized to they are suitable for the operating theater.