My first real exposure to what's commonly called augmented reality was about a year ago when one of my former colleagues introduced me to Pokemon Go. I remember her telling me that you could actually hold up your smartphone or tablet and see actual Pokemon along the street.
Now fast forward by a year, and most of the hype surrounding the game has waned off. However there is still tremendous enthusiasm with augmented reality. In fact reality altering technology isn't just regulated to Pokemon and the video gaming industry, it has invaded health care and looks to be more than a fad.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Neuroradiologist Wendell Gibby, who has found a way to insert augmented reality into an automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy (APLD) procedure for disk herniation. Gibby founded in Novarad Corp. which has developed the Opensight software to be used in conjunction with Microsoft Corp.'s Hololens technology.
When I talked to him you could just hear the excitement in his voice. This veteran Neuroradiologist was literally blown away by what Opensight and the Hololens could do.
In the APLD procedure, an image of the patient's spine was taken with CT, then loaded onto the Opensight software. From there the image was transferred through the cloud to the Hololens, which was worn by Gibby. That image was then projected onto the patient's body while Gibby did the procedure.
Just imagine the impact this could have on other procedures once it becomes tested and perfected, Gibby said. He kept repeating, the ability to look at the inside of the body on the surface of the patient is incredible!
"I could never have imagined this in my wildest dreams," Gibby said.
Augmented reality is quickly taking root into the health care space, offering enhanced imaging and easier surgical procedures. During the 2016 Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation summit, augmented reality for surgery made the top 10 list for medical innovations.
This innovation, which emerged from the same technology that fueled the gaming industry, offers surgeons – especially those conducting neurosurgery and retinal microsurgery – the opportunity to better identify tissue structures, said Rishi Singh, of the Clinic's Cole Eye Institute, who noted that his experience with the technique "felt ergonomically better."
Augmented reality can be a useful tool in health care. I don't think this is a fad, but rather the start of something big. But most importantly it's getting physicians and surgeons to dream again.