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Dr. Jesse L. Courtier speaking at RSNA

At RSNA, physicians explain how radiologists can leverage VR

by Lauren Dubinsky , Senior Reporter
Virtual reality was a major talking point at this year’s RSNA meeting — both on the exhibit floor and in the educational sessions.

Dr. Beth A. Ripley of the University of Washington hosted a session last Wednesday that delved into its applications in radiology.

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“We have to be very good at looking at imaging and making findings, but if we can’t communicate those findings to the clinicians that need to make decisions ... then we really haven’t accomplished what we want,” she said.

Both she and Dr. Jesse L. Courtier, pediatric radiologists at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, believe that communication gap can be bridged with augmented reality technology in the pre-surgical planning phase.

“I think we’ve all had this experience where we know in our mind what [the anatomy] looks like, but you can tell that it’s not really clicking with the surgeon,” he said. “All of the information we have in a CT is hidden beneath the surface of a real, solid organ, so this can be challenging for them.”

The CT data is used to generate a hologram of the anatomy that can be moved, repositioned and scaled. In addition, different layers can be peeled away and the colors can be changed to better differentiate the anatomy.

The surgeon can project the hologram in the operating room to see what the tumor looks like in relation to the patient’s anatomy, as well as in a conference room. That provides them with the same perspective they are going to see during the procedure.

Augmented reality tools come in a variety of different forms, including head-mounted displays like Google Glass, tablet-based devices like Apple’s AR Kit, and projection-based devices. One of the leading options is Microsoft’s HoloLens head-mounted display.

Courtier and his team have already done some initial accuracy precision testing that he plans to present soon. It takes them about 25 minutes to translate the DICOM image into a holographic image, but he believes they can get that down to 15 to 20 minutes.

“We all believe that this is going to shorten operating room times and decrease complication rates, but what we really need is the actual evidence-based outcomes data,” he said.

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