he last few decades have seen a rise in minimally invasive surgery (MIS), replacing open surgery as the preferred method across a variety of medical fields. However, MIS restricts the surgeon’s field of view and poses challenges when performing surgeries. Often surgeons need 3D visualisation, such as correct device placement or removal of sensitive tissues.
Other technologies have attempted to expand the view during MIS, including surgical scene reconstruction techniques, although most existing techniques are yet to demonstrate consistent performance capabilities. To combat this, efforts have been focused on developing the pre-existing technology of augmented reality.
AR is addressing the visual shortcomings of MIS by expanding the field of view for surgeons. As healthcare systems globally are continuing to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals are desperately searching for new ways to limit viral transmissions between healthcare staff and patients. For surgeons, choosing AR could strongly enhance procedure efficiency and limit the need for open surgery and limit patient exposure to aerosolised viral particles. Open surgery also typically involves a longer hospital stay, which may increase nosocomial virus transmission and increase pressure on resources and hospital bed capacity. Reducing this burden on hospitals by indirectly controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
Research from the University of Alberta and the University of Salento concluded that augmented reality could be significantly useful in laparoscopic surgery and surgical planning. Integrating AR into MIS would allow surgeons not to completely rely on endoscopes and alternatively, AR displays of scans could be overlaid on patients in real time to assist in the planning and increase accuracy when conducting operations. For the patient, this could reduce the chances of trauma and scarring while also accelerating postoperative recovery.
Augmented reality has the potential to enhance the efficiency of MIS as well as reducing recovery time and surgical errors. In 2018, the global AR market was valued at $4 billion, however, by 2030, the AR market is estimated to reach $76 billion, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24%, according to GlobalData estimates. AR in MIS is continuing to be researched, ProjectDR is one of the software platforms exploring how AR can improve visualisation in the operating theatre. ProjectDR displays a patient’s scan directly onto their body and can even provide segmented images if the surgeon selects this function. AR in MIS is still in the first stages, however, GlobalData expects this technology to significantly impact the healthcare industry over the next few years.