Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
show image

Oscar Williams

News editor

Surgeons are exploring how augmented reality could improve heart surgery

Surgeons at one of the UK’s leading children’s hospitals are preparing to introduce augmented reality headsets in their operating theatres.

Alder Hey, an NHS trust in Liverpool, plans to roll out Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets to surgeons carrying out heart surgery in the near future.

Medics at the trust hope that the devices will offer seamless access to patient scans during procedures. “Imaging a patient’s heart from the inside and from the outside is absolutely essential,” said Rafael Guerrero, a cardiac surgeon at Alder Hey. “I have to visualise that 3D view in my head in order to do this operation.”

At present, Guerrero displays the images on a screen, but says that they are not always readily accessible. “[HoloLens] will, in the future, enable me to have a patient’s scans in front of me while I’m doing the operation,” he said. “If I can use technology to obtain that information, to see those images in front of me, that helps me tremendously and improves the outcome for my patient.”

Healthcare has given rise to some of the more inventive applications of augmented reality over the last year. In October, a surgeon in London used HoloLens to communicate with colleagues from around the world as he was carrying out an operation. And in February, surgeons at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust used the headset to overlay images of patients’ blood vessels before making incisions.

“It’s incredibly important that we embrace technology to get our best people out there and do extraordinary things,” said Iain Hennessey, clinical director of innovation at Alder Hey. “At the end of the day, the health of children is more important than anything else.”