New technology can enable surgeons to visualise complex anatomical structures while preparing for surgery – and more importantly, in the operating theatre during the procedure. This has the potential to improve surgical safety while reducing the amount of time patients spend under anesthesia and cutting the amount of time surgeons spend operating on each patient.
The Inspiration Behind the Innovation
The team had been unsuccessful in multiple attempts to secure 3 million DKK in funding to purchase a 3D printer that could print models of anatomical structures to aid surgeons in preparing for surgery. Through the team’s investigation of the potential of 3D printing in this capacity, they realized that they could possibly exploit Augmented Reality (AR) – and its twin, Virtual Reality (VR) – in order to intuitively represent complex anatomical features without the need of 3D printing.
This project aims to bring 3D technology to clinicians who can benefit from a 3D representation of certain anatomy.
The process from anatomical scanning to producing either a printed or virtual model is 95% identical, so going from the physical to the virtual world is a natural next step. The solution developed in this project combines multiple off-the-shelf hardware and software products, including Microsoft’s 'Hololense' AR glasses, which the team utilise to overlay an AR image of patient’s anatomy on the actual patient. This essentially gives surgeons x-ray vision by enabling them to see blood vessels, tumors, hard and soft tissues, and other anatomically relevant structures – all before making an incision.
The team have created a proof of concept demonstrating that it is feasible to go from DICOM images to something that is useful in the OR. They’ve also identified key points at which the physical and virtual worlds differ, and they are in the process of finding ways to mitigate these.
Joakim Lundtoft Lindhardt: Head of 3D; 3D Print Centre, Aarhus University Hospital
Karen Eich Hammer: Clinical Engineer; 3D Print Centre, Aarhus University Hospital
Anders Mølgaard Jakobsen: Clinical Engineer and Project Manager; 3D Print Centre, Aarhus University Hospital