/The Augmented, Virtual, Human-Machine Future of Surgery Is Here

The Augmented, Virtual, Human-Machine Future of Surgery Is Here

Summary: Advancements in XR technologies are rapidly integrating into the operating room.

Original author and publication date: Jesse Damiani – June 26, 2021

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Virtual reality and augmented reality are now part of the real, everyday medicine.

From the article:

Dr. Steven Murphy had conducted countless hip replacement operations before, but this one was different. In this one, he and his team could see a 3D hologram overlaid on the patient — a digital model of the patient’s body that existed directly in his line of vision.

The effect? The surgical team had a form of X-ray vision with augmented reality.

“We had done a lot of testing on real human specimens, so we knew what it was going to look like, but to see it in a live patient for the first time was just unbelievable,” Murphy said in an interview with Freethink.

From 3D bioprinted body parts to NASA-developed remote-controlled robots that enter your body through your belly button, there’s no shortage of sci-fi headlines about medicine’s far-out future. But amid all the sci-fi sounding stuff, it can be easy to miss the very real ways that new technologies are changing medicine in the present.

These innovations aren’t replacing human expertise, but rather enabling new forms of human-machine collaboration. This collaboration is especially key in the high-stakes environment of the operating room. Where startups in other industries might have the luxury of “moving fast and break(ing) stuff,” there’s no margin for error in surgery.

Augmenting Surgery
Dr. Murphy’s operation, performed in February at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston, was in fact the first-ever AR-guided total hip replacement.

Using Microsoft HoloLens 2 mixed reality headsets, the four-person team could see full 3D holograms and other important information overlaid on the patient’s body, accurately positioned in their line of sight.

HipInsight, which Dr. Murphy invented, is the first intraoperative AR guidance platform designed for joint replacement. It received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January.

With HipInsight, 3D images of the patient’s anatomy are captured prior to surgery. In the OR, a tracker tells headsets where to project the 3D information relative to the patient’s body.

3D models and visualization tools have been a part of surgery for many years, but the ability to bring them directly into surgeons’ sight lines — and make necessary adjustments in real time — is a novel development. Beyond the cool factor, this technology allows surgeons to be as precise and minimally invasive as possible.

“We had all these holograms locked up in a computer for a decade — taking all that stuff that was sitting there flat on a screen and then putting it right inside the person’s body where they actually are is totally amazing,” Dr. Murphy said.

“Everybody can see it all together, and we can project the whole sequence of the operation and what it should look like. If you have a 3D model of someone on a computer 5 feet away, you can see it, but you can’t experience it.”

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