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article imageAugmented reality is making surgery safer

By Tim Sandle     Mar 20, 2018 in Science
Innovations with augmented reality are being used to assist surgeons in performing delicate procedures, and helping with life-threatening conditions that require operations. The net contribution is to make surgery safer.
Over the past couple of decades many new methods have been introduced into medicine, from computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging; to ultrasonogaphy and mammography. Many of these innovations generate sharper and more accurate images.
These images, while better rendered, have remained presented two-dimensionally, taken from the perspective of the imaging system. Furthermore, the images are invariably presented as individual images, captured in a point of time; and images from different devices cannot be easily presented together. This places a limitation of what medics can do with the information.
This is changing thanks to the adoption by medicine of augmented reality. As an example of this use Dr. Sarah Murthi and Amitabh Varshney discuss, in the Harvard Business Review, research they have undertaken at the Maryland Blended Reality Center’s “Augmentarium” laboratory. Here the researchers are prototyping augmented reality applications.
The idea is that a surgeon can be equipped with an augmented reality headset, like the Microsoft HoloLens, in order to see digital images and other medically important data directly overlaid on their field of view. In the example quoted, the researchers discuss the appliucation of a hovering echocardiogram, together with readings relating to vital signs, positioned immediately above the surgical field. Such data will enhance the surgical procedure and lead to fewer errors thank to the displaying of real-time and accurate information.
The Microsoft HoloLens is a pair of mixed reality smartglasses developed and manufactured by Microsoft. The device is in the form of a head-mounted display unit connected to an adjustable, cushioned inner headband. This includes a 2.4-megapixel photographic video camera, a four-microphone array, and an ambient light sensor. Other types of optical head-mounted displays are Google Glass XE 22.1 and the Vuzix STAR 1200 X.
In a different case, augmented reality-assisted surgery has been used with cardiovascular procedures. Here Terry Peters of the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada has implement augmented reality-assisted surgery towards the goal of improving repairs to the heart's mitral valve and replacement of the aortic valve.
In a third application, augmented reality is set to allow surgeons to peer inside a patient’s body without the need to make a large incision. The aim is to allow surgeons to carry out keyhole surgery. This application comes from Cambridge Consultants in Boston, Massachusetts. This approach, New Scientist reports, uses computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans to build up a three-dimensional image of the inside of a patient’s body, with different organs automatically color-coded by software. The resultant image is then put into the Microsoft HoloLens headset, enabling the surgeon to see a virtual image of the organs in the patient’s body.
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