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Surgeons ‘see through’ limbs using AR


Surgeons in London are using Augmented Reality (AR) technology to ‘see through’ tissue during operations.

The procedures carried out at Imperial College London at St Mary’s Hospital, involve surgeons using Microsoft HoloLens headsets, which offer a mixed reality perspective – where they can interact with holograms.

Image credit: Philip Pratt, et al. Eur Radiol Exp, 2018

Researchers have demonstrated the value of the tech during ‘reconstructive lower limb surgery’, overlaying ‘images of CT scans – including the position of bones and key blood vessels – onto each patient’s leg’. In effect, this gives them the ability to ‘see through’ the limb.

“We are one of the first groups in the world to use the HoloLens successfully in the operating theatre. 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. With the HoloLens, you look at the leg and essentially see inside of it. You see the bones, the course of the blood vessels, and can identify exactly where the targets are located,” said Dr Philip Pratt, a Research Fellow in the Department of Surgery & Cancer and lead author of the study, published in European Radiology Experimental.

Traditionally surgeons rely on a handheld scanner that uses ultrasound to locate blood vessels.

“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,” added Dr Pratt.

Microsoft’s HoloLens holographic software is also being used to design operating rooms. With American medtech company, Stryker, harnessing it to “envision the ideal operating room configuration with the power of holograms and the benefit of mixed reality”.


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