What feedback do you get from users?
Fischer: All told, we receive excellent feedback. The Mixed Reality Viewer brings a new dimension to surgical planning. Surgery requires three-dimensional thinking and surgeons are experts in getting a good grasp and understanding of the operative field from two-dimensional images. The 3D models support and enhance this process.
Especially younger surgeons with less clinical experience benefit greatly from this technology. It also assists highly experienced surgeons who face very complex cases such as skull base tumors, intracranial aneurysms, traumatic fractures, or vascular surgery. In the fall of 2020, the Mixed Reality Viewer was used in California to prepare for the separation surgery of conjoined twins. This highly complicated and intricate surgery involved over 30 people and took more than 24 hours.
Medical education and training also benefit from this tool. Junior surgeons take years and hundreds of surgeries to hone their skills and become experts. Many surgeons have told us that the learning curve is much steeper using MR. The complexity of the three-dimensional structures of the human body becomes more tangible and transparent compared to learning from textbooks or watching other surgeons.
What future trends do you see in MR applications in surgery?
Fischer: I think mixed reality will play an increasing role in medical education. Students will work less with body donations and learn processes using virtual models instead.
The next step will be to bring mixed reality into the operating room. There are several conceivable applications in this setting. One promising application is to overlay preoperative image data on top of the patient's body to be able to virtually look inside the patient with MR. In the long run, surgical monitors and displays will become less important as an information source in the OR. We could replace most of them with MR displays and headsets.
Taking things even further, the different members of the operating team might have their own headset to access personalized content. While the surgeon views image data, the surgical instruments are tagged or labeled for the operating room assistants to avoid any mix-ups.
Aside from these options, the technology can also be used to foster collaboration among surgeons. During the preoperative stage, surgeons can review the models with their colleagues – regardless of their current location, thus enabling the integration of surgeons from another hospital or another country. During the intervention, surgeons could also review the next steps with experts who are outside the operating room. The models are ideally suited as a discussion platform, especially to promote interdisciplinary team settings.