Plastic surgery

AR system assists plastic surgeons during operations

Image credit: Dreamstime

Japanese researchers have developed an augmented reality (AR) system that helps provide guidance for surgeons performing facial reconstructive surgery.

A clinician is able to use the system to create a 3D simulation of the final result of reconstructive surgery, which can be projected over the face of the patient during the procedure itself.

The researchers worked with clinicians at Osaka Medical College, Japan.

“[AR] is a technology that combines computer-generated images on a screen with a real object or scene,” said Dr Koichi Ueda, a researcher at Osaka’s department of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and Dr Daisuke Mitsune, a clinician. “We sought to develop a sophisticated yet simple and modifiable AR technology for use during plastic and reconstructive surgery.”

The team captured a 3D image of the patients’ faces using an ordinary high-definition digital camera, and CT scans to gather information about the facial bone structures. They were able to use this information to generate 3D simulations of the model results of surgery.

With a pair of off-the-shelf smart glasses, the plastic surgeon was able to view the ideal results in 3D, superimposed over the patient’s face during surgery.

The Osaka Medical College researchers tested the AR system in eight patients, and found that it helped in the planning and confirming reconstruction of the underlying facial bones. In every case, the simulation provided a helpful visual reference of the desired results, although it could not, at this early stage, guide surgery.

“In all cases in this study, the body surface contour after the procedure and the ideal postoperative image almost coincided,” said Dr Ueda.

In the future, the researchers hope to carry out more extensive studies to investigate the benefits of using AR during plastic and reconstructive surgery, and to refine the method of display. Additions to the system may include simple navigation of internal organs and a capability to evaluate surgical improvements.

“Our findings are not only useful for body surface evaluation but also for effective evaluation of AR technology in the field of plastic surgery,” the researchers said.

Whole areas of the healthcare sector could be transformed with new AR (and virtual reality) applications. Existing technologies include an AR aid for training student nurses, and an AR system for engaging patients with interactive models of themselves.

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