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Augmented reality used in what became the world’s first holographically navigated spine surgery

wallpapers News 2020-10-20

Virtual and augmented reality technologies are sometimes viewed as something mostly for gaming and, maybe, transport. However, scientists are convinced that AR could be useful in other areas as well. For example, they just tested AR technology at Balgrist University Hospital – a team of doctors successfully completed the first holographically navigated spine surgery.

A modern operating room. Image credit: Ad Meskens via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Surgeons need very sharp senses and skills. However, they are dealing with such a delicate and valuable tissue that it is absolutely necessary to enhance their capabilities using technology. Before the first holographically navigated spine surgery extensive CT scans were completed in order to create 3D representations of the affected anatomy.

These 3D images can then be overlayed during the operation, allowing doctors to see the patient’s 3D anatomy in great detail. AR technology also helps through some critical steps of the surgery – in marks the  exact insertion point and trajectory of a screw. Scientists say that this technology essentially just enhances the surgeon’s senses.

A team from Balgrist University Hospital successfully performs the world’s first holographically navigated spine surgery under the direction of Mazda Farshad (wearing AR glasses). Image credit: Balgrist University Hospital

The lucky patient involved in this breakthrough surgery  suffered from lower lumbar spine degeneration, which caused a significantly narrowed spinal canal and corresponding strong pain and sensory disorders in the legs. This patient later admitted to being proud about being the first patient in this kind of a surgery. Most importantly, his symptoms were gone after surgery.

Talking about the images of the surgery, the patient expressed being surprised by the pictures of overlayed augmented reality and said he didn’t think something like that would be possible.

And he isn’t far from the truth – it wasn’t possible not so long ago. Augmented reality made huge strides in the second half of the previous decade. Now augmented reality is being integrated in cars – GPS navigation instructions will be displayed right into the field of view of the driver. It is also being integrated into fighter pilot’s helmets to aid their operations. In surgery rooms AR is going to be more and more common, while full VR will aid training new surgeons. AR enhances the surgeon’s senses and perception, but in the future it will do much more – it will improve the accuracy and outcomes of the surgeries.

This was the first holographically navigated spine surgery in the world and it is a great push for AR. However, it is obvious that now this technology could be integrated in other surgeries as well. Hopefully, pretty soon.


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