Archive Megatrends 2018

What Will the Future Of Surgery Look Like?

Virtual and augmented reality promises to transform how surgery is planned, performed and promoted.

Rafael Grossmann

Rafael Grossmann, MD


Augmented Reality with Google Glass
FIELD OF VIEW Augmented reality lets surgeons see patient records and clinical data while also projecting and recording their vantage point to removed audiences.

Surgeons who work with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) don headsets that let them explore anatomy that's not really there and reference clinical data that's projected into their field of view. Before dismissing those far-out concepts as farfetched, know that futurist surgeons are already figuring out ways to use VR and AR to improve pre-op planning, bring intraoperative imaging to the sterile field and enhance communication among surgical team members. To appreciate how the technologies might someday be used in your ORs, you must first understand how they work.

VR and AR gather X-rays, CT and MRI images, and construct 3D virtual displays that surgeons can explore through head-mounted devices (HMDs). AR adds data — pre-op images and vital signs, for example — to a surgeon's plane of vision, making the perspective partially artificial. VR, on the other hand, is entirely artificial. Users don goggles and visually step into another perspective that isn't based on what's actually around them. In other words, augmented reality adds to live visuals. Virtual reality creates them.

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