Augmented reality (AR) technologies that blend computer-generated images and data from MRI and CT scans with real-world views are making it possible for doctors to see under the skin of their patients to visualize bones, muscles, and internal organs without having to cut open a body. Experts say AR will transform medical care by improving precision during operations, reducing medical errors, and giving doctors and patients alike a better understanding of complex medical problems. It could help doctors determine exactly where to make injections and incisions. In medical emergencies, it could be used to display life-saving information for AR-equipped paramedics and other first responders. ProjectDR is an AR system that can map internal medical scans into three-dimensional images overlaid on a patient’s body, either with a video projector or via AR smart glasses.
AR will eliminate the historic disconnect between a doctor’s efforts to understand data from scans and other diagnostic tests and those to care for flesh-and-blood patients. In a cutting-edge use of AR in medicine, doctors at Imperial College and St. Mary’s Hospital in London have been wearing Microsoft’s HoloLens AR glasses during reconstructive surgery on patients who have suffered severe leg injuries in traffic accidents. Doctors often repair severe leg injuries with flaps of tissue taken from elsewhere on the body. Connecting it to blood vessels at the site of the wound helps fresh oxygen-carrying blood reach the new tissue and keep it alive. Surgeons have typically used a handheld scanner to locate the major blood vessels near the wound. But the augmented reality system helped surgeons find those blood vessels directly, by highlighting them in the 3D virtual image displayed in an AR headset.