First for touchless technology in vascular surgery
I am really glad every time I come across examples of technology applied to improve citizens’ lives. As recently announced, the forward looking Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom decided to run a pilot programme of using touchless technology in the operating theatre.
The pioneering work is intended to explore the use of touchless interaction within surgical settings; enabling surgeons to view, control and manipulate medical images without contact. It is the first time the technology has been used in this way.
Touchless system for vascular surgery- Gerardo Gonzalez in scrubs showing gestural interaction
Surgeons operate in a challenging environment where they are required to maintain sterility at all times. If a surgeon would like to use the electronic equipment he/she would need to un-scrub, use the equipment (mouse, keyboard, joystick, etc) and then re-scrub. This process is time consuming and therefore surgeons are frequently compelled to instruct others to manipulate visual-aid equipment for them; an often impractical and imprecise method.
This new gesture-based system utilizes Microsoft’s Kinect technology, to allow the vascular surgery team to maintain a sterile environment, whilst being able to view and manipulate medical images through a combination of gesture and voice control. Just by waving his arms the surgeon can consult and sift through medical images, such as CT scans or real-time X-rays, while in the middle of an operation. The software for the imaging surgery system was developed by researchers from King’s College London’s Imaging Sciences department to help the surgeons during complex aneurysm procedures. The touchless interaction component was developed by Gerardo Gonzalez, a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research from Lancaster University. The computer programme visualizes on screen the patient’s 3D anatomy, which is acquired from a group of 2D images (which look like x-rays) taken at different view directions. The Kinect technology allows the surgeon to manipulate (e.g., rotate, pan and zoom) the medical imaging system by themselves, rather than instructing an assistant to do so. A simple set of gestures was developed, to position a marker, for example, the surgeon simply points at the image to activate a cursor and says, "place marker". Other functions, such as panning or zooming, require two hands. The technology is really simple to use as it is based on simple hand-gesture and little or no training is needed.
The system is currently under trial on vascular patients at St Thomas’ Hospital with a view to expanding to the manipulation of 3D volumetric models of the brain for neurosurgery at other hospitals.
The ultimate aim is to develop a touchless interaction in surgery toolkit that can be used in any hospital or system interested in applying touchless interaction to their imaging system.
Mr Tom Carrell, vascular surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Senior Lecturer at King’s College London, said: "This technology is very exciting as it allows me to easily and precisely control the imaging I need during operations. Touchless interaction means there is no compromise in the sterility of the operating field or in patient safety."
Meanwhile, Dr Mark Rouncefield from Lancaster University commented: “This is a lovely example of a successful interdisciplinary research project, combining the technical skills of computer scientists with a social scientific and medical expertise that ensures the new technology resonates with the way in which surgeons actually do their work."