Augmented Reality gets a chance to optimize surgical procedures

September 24, 2019

The trend toward the use of technology applications in surgery continues with a partnership between the George Washington University Hospital and Novorad, detailed in a recent article in Health Data Management.  Novorad has developed a system which can apply Augmented Reality (AR) – made famous through its’ use in Pokémon Go – to support pre-operative planning and surgical strategy.  Supported by HoloLens from Microsoft, the system allows surgeons to visualize 3D holograms from patient images on the actual patient both preoperatively and while the patient is on the table.  Capabilities available using these holographic images include virtual incisions to guide the surgeon, shunts and needle placement; finding the optimal entrance and trajectory for instrumentation; finding and resecting masses; and guidance of interventional biopsies.

EHC NOTE: In this issue we’ve already discussed virtual reality applications for pain management, now augmented reality takes the stage to support aspects of surgical care.  While the partnership described is in the evaluation phase seeking to determine effectiveness, we believe that some variation of computer assisted surgery will gain broader traction in the next decade or so.  The compelling potential of the AR approach is the ability to adapt to changes in patient positioning to inform surgical approach while in the OR. While previous 3D modeling has been used preoperatively for complex case planning, it was a relatively static rendition, not designed to be actively superimposed on a patient in real time. 

Although Healthcare has been famously slow to adapt to technology, the broad adaptation elsewhere continues to offer a springboard for innovators to create must-have applications, including in our perioperative environment.  Who would have thought that the tech which allowed many of our kids (and maybe some of us) to run around engrossed in Pokémon Go a few years ago would provide a basis for a novel surgical support system? As always, we are excited to see how this and other innovative applications of technology reshape our intraoperative world over the next few years.