Augmented reality has surgical application
Fri 26 Aug 2016
A Chinese surgeon has discovered a practical application for augmented reality in the medical field. Using the same technology by which a Pokemon character is layered onto a real-life setting, two surgical images can be combined into a single view, eliminating the need for surgeons to watch two separate screens simultaneously.
Catherine Chan Po-ling, a surgeon in Hong Kong and co-founder of MedEXO Robotics, says that the use of augmented reality technology in keyhole, or minimally invasive, surgery can solve one of the biggest problems for surgeons performing these procedures.
Currently, surgeons in keyhole procedures must create and view two images simultaneously. In Chan’s example, when checking for cancerous cells in the liver, the surgeon operates a regular camera showing a view of the surface of the liver, and at the same time operates an ultrasound probe to check beneath the surface of the liver.
The two images are shown simultaneously on separate screens which the doctor has to monitor and track, while operating the two probes separately. As Chan said, “The doctor has to look at two images on two screens a while maneuvering two probes at the same time. This requires a lot of hand-eye coordination. This has long been the biggest problem regarding minimally invasive surgery.”
The new process pioneered by Chan uses augmented reality technology to layer one view over the other, allowing the surgeon to review both types of images on the same screen at the same time. Images from the regular camera and the ultrasound probe are combined using computer tracking technology.
The augmented reality software was written by engineers at Imperial College, but Chan and her team are the first to provide a medical application for it. The surgical application for augmented reality is still in the testing phase, and requires work on image stability, but Chan believes that it will be implemented for widespread use in keyhole surgeries within two years. “In the future, this AR technology can be applied to all minimally invasive surgeries in the same way as the Da Vinci robot arm surgical system.”
MedEXO, the UK robotics company that Chan co-founded, recently won acclaim and a $2M HK prize for the creation of an exoskeleton glove that minimizes shaking and hand tremors of patients with Parkinson’s disease.