Augmented reality (AR) has quickly made inroads in healthcare. In 2020, doctors performed the first-ever spine surgery using an AR, head-mounted display. A 78-year-old patient was suffering degenerative spine disease that required lumbar decompression and the insertion of several screws. Surgeons wore the FDA-approved AR headset to visualize the patient’s CT scan as they operated and placed the implants with 100% accuracy.
Since then, neurosurgeons have used AR for hundreds of surgeries. It’s even been speculated that all surgeries could be performed with AR. As opposed to virtual reality (VR) technology, AR superimposes computer imagery on the real world, through AR glasses or other headsets, allowing healthcare providers and their patients to visualize information as it’s applied in actual healthcare situations. This allows for greater efficiency, accuracy, personalization and overall better (and safer) care.
Augmented reality and its companion innovation, artificial intelligence (AI), are already revolutionizing healthcare delivery, from the operating room to the doctor’s office to medical school.
Surgeons wear AR headsets as they operate, allowing them to see information, such as patient imagery without turning away from their critical task. With the addition of cameras and AI software, surgeons and their AR/AI solutions can see what’s going on inside a patient, process vast amounts of data to interpret it and return on-the-fly diagnoses or procedural suggestions right in the AR headset.
In addition, solution providers have developed AR tools that allow healthcare providers to superimpose visuals on patients that help deliver safer care beyond the OR. For example, when administering medicine, nursing staff can view an overlay of a body’s vein structure to more easily identify the right vein and obviate the sometimes painful process of trial and error.
Healthcare, especially surgery, can be unnerving for patients. Using AR, doctors can help patients visualize how their bodies work, how a particular condition might affect their health and even understand what specifically will happen during a procedure. With AI, such visualization can take into account a patient’s particular health data to personalize the experience for their situation.
Image Credit Augmedics