Texas surgeons perform first sinus surgery using AR

By Laura Lovett
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The uses of augmented reality have moved well beyond just catching Pokémon — now the technology has found its way into the operating room. Earlier this month surgeons from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center became the first in the country to use AR during a minimally invasive sinus procedure. 

"[AR], which uses 3D mapping and imagery, enhances our understanding of complex anatomy so surgical procedures are more precise," Dr. Martin J. Citardi, chair of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery in McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, said in a statement. "The addition of [AR] to a surgical navigation serves as a GPS-like system and offers patients the benefits of minimally invasive surgery with lower risks and better outcomes." 

Citardi and his team used Stryker’s Scopis Target Guided Surgery technology to plan a pathway and view critical structures in preoperative medical scanning. This mapping was then overlaid onto the surgeon’s endoscopic views of the surgical area, according to a statement. The idea is that the image will help the surgeon follow the defined path and avoid critical structures. 

"This system also allows easy recording of both the surgery and surgical planning. Such digital content will be important for training of surgeons in the difficult area of endoscopic sinus surgery. This will ultimately benefit patients," Citardi said in a statement.  

The surgery performed was called a revision image-guided functional endoscopic sinus surgery for recurrent chronic rhinosinusitis. The patient also had a fibro-osseous lesion blocking drainage from the left frontal sinus. 

“This was a complicated case. By using this technology, we were able to plan a pathway to drain that blocked frontal sinus and avoid the need for a more extensive procedure,” Citardi said. 

Using AR for operations has been a hot topic recently. The technology used in the surgery, Scopis, was founded in 2010 and focuses on endoscopic AR, according to Crunchbase. Last May, Scopis revealed a new tool that gives surgeons enhanced visibility when performing spinal surgery. The company pairs their technology with Microsoft’s HoloLens. 

In fact, several developers are using Microsoft’s HoloLens as a tool to help develop AR technologies in the operating theater. 

Recently, surgeons at St. Mary’s Hospital in London used the HoloLens to overlay images of CT scans onto patients’ legs during reconstructive lower limb surgery. The headset gave surgeons the ability to see the position of the bones and key blood vessels through the limb during surgery. 

Still there are other companies building their own version of AR glasses for surgeons, notably Augmedics, which landed $8.3 million in new funding last year.