Tablets and smartphones have found surprisingly many uses in medicine, from expected applications that provide clinical information to ones that measure important angles during orthopedic procedures. A new iPad app from Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Image Computing MEVIS in Germany is using augmented reality technology to help surgeons excise liver tumors without damaging critical vessels within the organ.
A CT scan is performed before the surgery and the imaged vessels are identified within software, all of which is then transferred to the iPad. During the procedure the surgeon can navigate the imaged liver to see where the vessels are, and if the camera is turned on and pointed at the exposed liver the app automatically superimposes the vessel structure of the organ onto the live picture. Notably, the app is not simply a concept, but was already tested successfully during a liver tumor removal at Asklepios Klinik Barmbek in Hamburg.
Some features of the software:
- By simply marking the touchscreen, doctors can measure the length of a vessel to be removed. This helps the doctor estimate whether the remaining ends can be sewn together or whether a new piece of vessel must be inserted.
- After the surgeon removes certain vessels, he can remove them on the app screen with a virtual ‘eraser’. The separated vessels disappear from the screen and let the doctor view underlying structures.
- If, during the operation, a tumor is judged to be larger than at first thought, surgeons must make snap decisions. The MEVIS app can also help here. If additional vessels must be removed, the app calculates which parts of the liver will no longer be sufficiently supplied with blood. This lets the surgeon better estimate whether the remaining organ volume is large enough for the patient to survive.
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