Surgeons 'see through' tissue using AR headset

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Representational Image Reuters

Researchers from Britain have displayed how surgeons can use Microsoft's Augmented Reality (AR) headset HoloLens while operating on patients undergoing reconstructive lower limb surgery.

The team at Imperial College London at St Mary's Hospital used the technology to overlay images of CT scans -- including the position of bones and key blood vessels -- onto each patient's leg, in effect enabling the surgeon to 'see through' the limb during surgery.

HoloLens is a self-contained computer headset that immerses the wearer in 'mixed reality', enabling them to interact with 'holograms' -- computer-generated objects made visible through the visor.

According to the team trialling the technology, the approach can help surgeons locate and reconnect key blood vessels during reconstructive surgery, which could improve outcomes for patients.

"We are one of the first groups in the world to use the HoloLens successfully in the operating theatre," said Philip Pratt, lead author of the study published in European Radiology Experimental.

"Through this initial series of patient cases we have shown that the technology is practical, and that it can provide a benefit to the surgical team," Pratt added.

He explained that with the HoloLens, surgeons look at the leg and essentially see inside of it. They see the bones, the course of the blood vessels and can identify exactly where the targets are located.

"Augmented reality offers a new way to find these blood vessels under the skin accurately and quickly by overlaying scan images onto the patient during the operation," said Pratt.

He said that in future, they hope to automate the process further by using software to improve the alignment and attach markers to the patient when they have the scan.