The HoloLens has become a frequent sight in medical facilities around the world, but a new demonstration shows just how seamlessly it can be integrated into traditional medical procedures to improve the experience for physicians and patients alike.
Professor Shafi Ahmed, a colorectal surgeon, recently gave us a peek at just how far we've come using augmented reality in the operating room. He donned a Microsoft HoloLens to collaborate with other surgeons around the world during a laparoscopic surgical procedure on a cancer patient in London on Oct. 19.
Ahmed achieved the feat by using a suite of software including a virtual reality app from the company he co-founded, Medical Realities, and a virtual telepresence solution from Aetho. The Medical Realities app provided a fully three-dimensional model of the patients' body that the surgeons — two in London, one in Mumbai, India, and one in Atlanta in the US — were able to interact with in real-time.
By bringing together specialists in real time from across the world and different time zones we have demonstrated that we can make surgery safer and ensure the best patient outcomes, [democratizing] surgical practice.
In addition to manipulating the models of the patient's body while the patient was in surgery, the surgeons were also able to draw on the models and offer specific analysis based on the 3D scans.
Perhaps the most brilliant part of the mixed reality surgery demonstration was the HoloLens-powered collaboration using Aetho's Thrive app, which put remote participants in the same room via 3D avatars. The Thrive avatars were able to move around the room and fully interact with the real person situated in the operating room at The Royal London Hospital.
"We all wore HoloLens headsets and so could 'see' each other moving as graphic avatars, standing, and speaking as if we were together in the same hospital operating theatre," Ahmed said in a statement posted by the BMI London Independent Hospital, where Ahmed consults.
Ahmed, who is currently a consulting colorectal surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust and council member at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, among other things, is no stranger to outlier technology. He was an early user of Google Glass, the frequently ridiculed-by-the-public device that has nevertheless persisted as a tool for some in business and manufacturing.
Hitesh Patel, also a consulting colorectal surgeon at BMI London Independent Hospital, said he found using the HoloLens for the first time "very exciting," in a press release from Barts Health NHS Trust.
It was an amazing way to interact with eminent surgeons across the world, and discuss the case and look at the same images together. It's also nice to have everything in front of you without sifting through paper, trying to find results — so all of these are great benefits to the patient.
Although AR- and VR-assisted surgery is on the rise, whether this kind of remote surgery collaboration will become the norm remains to be seen. Nevertheless, based on this demonstration, the tools are becoming so easy to use that the cost of other physicians ignoring AR may be higher than the cost of simply diving in. Doctors can now begin utilizing immersive computing tools just as they're becoming mature enough to truly help patients in need.
To view the full video of the surgery using Medical Realities and Aetho's technology on the HoloLens, check out Aetho's video on Vimeo.