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New augmented reality tools offer surgical guidance in war-torn areas

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | September 07, 2018
Artificial Intelligence Health IT
Purdue researchers have developed
augmented reality tools to assist clinicians
in rural and war zone areas
Experienced surgeons and physicians may soon be able to lend support from anywhere in the world to less experienced professionals in war-torn and rural areas through a new approach leveraging the power of augmented reality.

Researchers at Purdue University have developed a new technique utilizing augmented reality tools to replace current telestrator technology and connect health care professionals in remote areas with more experienced surgeons and physicians worldwide for guidance during complex procedures.

"There is an unmet need for technology that connects health care mentees in rural areas with experienced mentors," Edgar Rojas Muñoz, a doctoral student in industrial engineering who worked on the project, said in a statement. "The current use of a telestrator in these situations is inefficient because they require the mentee to focus on a separate screen, fail to show upcoming steps and give the mentor an incomplete picture of the ongoing procedure."

Worn by a mentee in the field, the transparent AR headset offers a screen display that allows him or her to see the patient in front of them, and provides real-time on-screen feedback from the mentor.

Viewing the AR feed with a video monitor in a separate location, the mentor offers instant feedback to the field surgeon, with their virtual notes and marks tracked and aligned with the surgical region in front of the mentee through the use of computer vision algorithms.

Since its development, the technology has undergone one round of clinical evaluation and is set to undergo another at a Navy base in Virginia where mentees and mentors will utilize it in a simulated battlefield. In addition, researchers at Purdue are working to increase the stabilization ability of the view for mentees.

"The most critical challenge is to provide surgical expertise into the battlefield when it is most required," Juan Wachs, Purdue's James A. and Sharon M. Tompkins Rising Star associate professor of industrial engineering, who led the project team, said in a statement. "Even without having highly experienced medical leaders physically co-located in the field, with this technology we can help minimize the number of casualties while maximizing treatment at the point of injury."

The approach is one of many in the works at Purdue for enhancing the efficiency of procedures, with two other respective groups recently unveiling their developments for a biomedical imaging system composed of ultrasound and optical technology, and 3D printed, optical phantoms.

Funding for the augmented reality research was provided by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Other researchers on the project include Voicu Popescu, an associate professor of computer science at Purdue; Brian Mullis and Ben Zarzaur from the Indiana University School of Medicine; and nurse researchers Kathryn Anderson and Sherri Marley from Eskenazi Health Services in Indianapolis.

The team is working with the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization on patents for the technology.

The research team is currently seeking partners.

Researchers in the project did not respond for comment.

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