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British Doctors Use Augmented Reality Headsets in Reconstructive Surgery

Microsoft HoloLens is not just for gaming– doctors use the augmented reality headsets to reconstruct limbs in trauma surgery.

Technology and healthcare go hand in hand, and a team of British surgeons has recently premiered a new way in which augmented reality headsets can be used in medicine. Equipped with Microsoft HoloLens, the doctors at St. Mary’s Hospital in London made a demonstration of how augmented reality helps doctors during lower limb reconstructive surgery.


A New Era in Surgery: Doctors Add Augmented Reality Headsets to the Standard Equipment

In the demonstration, CT scan images of the patient’s network of veins were superimposed over the body, allowing doctors to have a clearer picture of how they should reconnect each vein. This new technique will greatly improve the chances of viability of reattached limbs following major trauma.

Using holographic images projected by augmented reality headsets is not a new concept in healthcare. AR has been used for some time already in training medical students and practitioners. But this is the first time new technologies have made such a dramatic and life-saving difference in the operating theater.


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The team of doctors who performed this innovative demonstration consists of Dr. Dimitri Amiras, a consultant radiologist, Mr. Jon Simmons, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, both from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, together with Dr. Philip Pratt, a Research Fellow in the department of surgery. The trial cases operated on with the help of augmented reality headsets covered trauma from car accidents, to a compound fracture in an elderly patient.

augmented reality headsets for surgeries
The surgeon’s view
Source: Imperial College London


Operating with AR: Faster, More Reliable and More Accurate

From the surgeon’s point of view, augmented reality headsets are one of the most useful types of equipments in reducing time in preparing the strategy for the surgery, thus reducing the patient’s waiting time before they have the injured limb reconstructed.

“Currently, data preparation is a time consuming process, but in the future much of this could be automated, with the consultant radiologist checking the accuracy of the model against the original scan. […] Now, using the HoloLens, we can identify where the blood vessels are in 3D space and use virtual 3D arrows to guide the surgeon”, explained Dr. Dimitri Amiras.


Augmented Reality Surgery– the Promise of a Higher Success Rate in Trauma Surgery

Mr. Jon Simmons is extremely satisfied with the outcome of the first trial surgeries with the help of augmented reality headsets. “The application of AR technology in the operating theatre has some really exciting possibilities. …While the technology can’t replace the skill and experience of the clinical team, it could potentially help to reduce the time a patient spends under anaesthetic and reduce the margin for error”, he declared on the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust official website.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”17″ bg_color=”#04303e” txt_color=”#ffffff”]”Now, using the HoloLens, we can identify where the blood vessels are in 3D space and use virtual 3D arrows to guide the surgeon.”[/mks_pullquote]

Indeed, augmented reality is all about enhancing the view of hidden objects and allowing users to interact with them in a realistic manner. In trauma surgery, the damage caused by car accidents can make it very difficult for doctors to identify correctly and quickly all the blood vessels which have to be reconnected to maintain the viability of the injured limb.


It is very likely that this initial success will push forward the use of augmented reality technology in other specializations in medicine, allowing doctors to save more limbs and lives. This series of trial trauma surgeries aided by augmented reality headsets indicates that medicine can be one of the top beneficiaries of the latest technologies, with benefits which go beyond those facilitated for any other field of application.


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