AR visualisations can help in spinal treatments, research suggests

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A new study has suggested how augmented reality (AR) can be applicable for spinal treatments.

The study, published in the Global Spine Journal (no opt-in required), explored 42 spinal procedures, with AR implemented using operating microscope head-up displays (HUDs), and concluded all tests were successful.

The tests used AR to provide preoperative image data to automatically segment the vertebra, with each being assigned a unique colour, and aided in various procedures, from removing tumours to realignment. The software was almost entirely provided by Brainlab, for whom one of the paper authors works as a consultant.

Of the 42 cases, patients were placed chest-down for 33 procedures, while five were operated on placed on their side, and four were lying on their back. The number of objects segmented for display by the AR was between one and 25, while during surgery this number was usually reduced to three or four objects displayed simultaneously. The HUD was occasionally restarted to ensure an unobscured view of the surgical field.

AR ‘demonstrated its benefit especially in challenging anatomical situations, like reoperations and complex anatomical situations, as well as it will be beneficial in aiding the training of residents for a quicker and better understanding of anatomy’, the report noted.

Virtual and augmented reality in healthcare has seen various beneficial projects take place, from being able to see coronavirus-infected lung tissue, to helping detect balance issues in multiple sclerosis patients. GlobalData argued in February that AR would overtake VR due to the falling cost of AR hardware and a wider selection of use cases available.

“Microscope-based AR can be applied successfully to various kinds of spinal procedures,” the report concluded. “AR improves anatomical orientation in the surgical field supporting the surgeon, as well as [offering] a potential tool for education.”

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

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