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December 14th, 2016 by admin

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Augmented reality; coming soon to a theatre near you

“In ten years’ time we will wonder how we were able to operate without 3D imaging and augmented reality,” said Patrick Pessaux, a surgeon at the university teaching hospital of Strasbourg.

For the surgeon, the advantage of these emerging techniques is two-fold.  Firstly, the day before the operation doctors will be able to explain the details of the intervention to the patient using a tablet computer.  “This educational and entertaining approach tends to reassure them” the specialist stated.

Secondly, 3D visualization of an anomaly beforehand allows the surgeon to define his movements and aim directly thus lowering the risk of side effects.  “When we aim for the gallbladder, in 0.5% of cases the bile duct, which leads from the liver to the intestine, is impacted, causing injury.  Augmented reality allows us to visualize this duct which is hidden beneath fat, and thereby avoid it.”

A clinical trial on gall bladder removals (100 000 operations each year in France) in 60 patients has just concluded in Strasbourg.  The data are being analyzed.  “It is a world first.  We are going to identify in how many of the sixty patients augmented reality enabled us to find the right structure”, Patrick Pessoux explained.

Even if augmented reality provides more accurate diagnosis, helps to prepare operations, and informs patients, it hasn’t yet arrived in operating theaters.  At present, navigation allows surgical guidance during an operation. We will still have to wait for a few years for these innovations, which are currently in research and development, to finally enter the operating room.