System will supplant keyhole surgery

December 24, 1999

Physicians may soon no longer be looking through the keyhole when they perform microscopic surgery, writes Tim Greenhalgh.

Advances in virtual reality mean that a surgeon's narrow views of the human body when performing keyhole surgery can be widened considerably, according to Henry Fuchs, professor of computer science at the University of North Carolina.

A physicians' field of vision is severely limited when performing exploratory procedures, but Professor Fuchs argues that Augmented Reality Systems (which augment the user's real world with synthetic virtual objects) will revolutionise surgery.

Professor Fuchs experimented with a video head-mounted display that delivered similar views of the human body to those given by more invasive procedures.

The "virtual image" of the human body will be produced from real-time ultrasound images. It is hoped that this procedure will lead to more natural hand-to-eye coordination.

The innovation was discussed at the International Conference on Virtual Reality Software and Technology at University College, London this week.

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