“While imaging has radically evolved, how images are displayed is basically the same as it was in 1950”. This was what Sarah Murthi, Associate Professor of Surgery at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center and Amitabh Varshney, Dean of College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland wrote for Harvard Business Reviewlast year. 

In the article, the duo detailed how their research team has moved image and visual data display from a 2D flat screen to the 21stcentury via augmented reality (AR). Traditionally, as Murthi and Varshney wrote, images are shown from the perspective of the imaging device and not the viewer. Often, there can be a lot of information being displayed at once and surgeons would have to look away from patients in order to read the information off the screen. 

With AR, all these could be eliminated as critical clinical data are now being superimposed directly on the surgeon’s view of the patient; reducing medical errors and saving patients’ lives in the long run. This is especially true of procedures that are performed outside an operating room, in incidences when medical professional receives minimal support or those who are still undergoing training. 

From symptoms descriptions, nursing care to body visualization 

Fast forward a year later, AR is no longer novel to medicine and healthcare. In fact, it is fastgrowing technology enhancing its safety and efficiency. By 2025, the revenue opportunity brought about by AR implementation is estimated to be $5.1 billion. Apart from surgery, AR is now actively deployed in other domains of medicine and healthcare. 

EyeDecide is an application which uses AR to simulate vision; so that patients diagnosed with different visual diseases will have a better understanding of their respective conditions and being able to accurately describe each of their symptoms. On the other hand, AccuVein comes with a handheld scanner that can be put above the patient’s skin, AR will then reveal the veins to overcome intravenous injection failure. The invention believes to be 3.5 times more successful in finding the vein for the first time. 

ProjectDR, an AR system developed by The University of Alberta’s computing science graduates Ian Watts and Michael Fiest, allows medical images obtained from CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to be directly displayed on the patient’s body. These images move along with the patients, giving physicians a full view of individuals’ internal anatomy for surgical planning, education, or physiotherapy. 

Benefits of AR 

In general, AR is giving both physicians and patients the room to learn more about a particular medical procedure. For the former, AR allows them to better plan and reduce risks that would possibly arise. For the latter, AR permits the making of betterinformed decisions about the right treatment and illness prevention. It can also mentally and physically prepare oneself for an upcoming intervention, making the overall medical procedure more tolerable. 

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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.