Fraunhofer HHI Conducts 3D Surgical Study

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Chris Chinnock

3D in Medicine - The Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) (Berlin, Germany) has published the results of a new 3D surgical study to test surgeon’s ability to perform tasks like tying a knot during laprascopic surgery using 3D cameras and displays.  Guess what?  The surgeons performed better when they could visualize what they were doping in 3D instead of 2D.  The researchers showed that even experienced physicians (the main skeptics of using 3D) could benefit from the latest generation of 3D devices.

The use of 3D in medicine has been growing.  There are several companies that offer head-mounted display for stereo viewing; others that offer sit-down consoles for remote robotic tool manipulation; and glasses-based 3D displays.  These are all commercially available and in-use in real surgical situations today.  I am not aware of any glasses-free 3D displays being approved for medical use (write me if you know of something), but with the coming availability of 4K displays, I suspect that will change soon.

A surgeon practices sewing up a wound without a direct view. Doing so is more efficient with 3D screens.

The study was conducted by HHI and included the use of glasses-based 3D displays as well as glasses-free 3D displays.  Tests were conducted at Klinikum rechts der Isar university hospital in Munich with 50 surgeons.  Using an abdominal cavity dummy, the surgeons were asked to use a needle and thread to sew a wound with ten stitches inside the model cavity.  The tools and endoscopic stereo camera were identical to those used in real surgeries.  Just as would be the case in a minimally invasive surgical procedure, the surgeons did not have a direct view of their hands, and thus depended on the display to guide their movements.

Surgeons participating in the test tried four different screen systems: 2D, glass-based 3D, glasses-free 3D, and a mirror apparatus that served as the “ideal” 3D model. Fruanhofer HHI used their in-house built glasses-free display as part of the test.

“The results were astonishing,” noted Professor Hubertus Feußner in their research note.  “With the glasses-based 3D system, the procedure was more than 15 percent shorter, and precision increased considerably. Hand movements were more targeted than with the 2D model.”

Test using the glasses-free display were not top ranked.  Surgeons said it was comparable to working with the 2D screen.  Dr. Ulrich Leiner, head of the Interactive Media – Human Factors department at HHI, noted that this display is a two-view glasses-free type with eye tracking used to present the stereo images to the surgeon based on their head/eye position.  “While the glasses-free technology still requires some fine-tuning, we believe improvements will increase the popularity of 3D systems in operating rooms,” said Leiner.

“The study demonstrated that 3D has become an option for surgeons as well. This will revive the discussion among skeptics. And now there is a need for tests in other medical disciplines,” concluded Leiner. –Chris Chinnock

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