Augmented reality could give surgeons X-ray vision when they operate

Imagine what a boon it would be to surgeons’ lifesaving abilities if they were granted X-ray vision while operating on patients. That’s exactly what a new startup called MediView XR, spinning out of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, wants to make possible — and it’s all thanks to the power of augmented reality (AR).

Using Microsoft HoloLens or similar AR goggles, MediView XR’s technology gives surgeons the ability to peer inside patients and see their internal anatomy under the skin. That includes organs, blood vessels, bones, and other structures such as cancerous lesions. This is all thanks to a system that “fuses” sensor readings from ultrasound devices with CT or MRI scans to provide an X-ray-like view that doesn’t involve repeated exposure to X-rays. The three-dimensional view means that surgeons can move around patients and continue to see their internal anatomy in the right position and from the correct angle.

That’s not all the technology can do, either. It also offers advanced positioning data that can help surgeons as they operate. When surgeons picks up an instrument while wearing the AR goggles, they will see a “lightsaber-like” ray of light emitted from the end of the tool. When moved toward the patient, the augmented reality platform lets them see exactly how it will intersect with the patient’s anatomy. It will even alert surgeons when they have the correct placement.

“As minimally invasive surgery becomes the norm for treating many types of diseases, I realized the greatest shortcoming was visualization of the targeted region,” Karl West, director of medical devices at Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement. “It didn’t make sense that with all the other improvements in medicine that we were still using 2D imaging.”

This is just the most recent example of how the latest technology can be used to save lives in the medical field. From medical robots that allow surgeons to operate remotely across vast distances to virtual reality training systems that let physicians practice procedures multiple times before carrying them out for real, medicine is benefitting enormously from cutting-edge tech. And that means that patients benefit right along with it.