Would 3D Tech Benefit Surgical Doctors?

  • BY Justin Alvarez

Moviegoers may not be the only ones wearing 3D glasses. According to a recent study, surgeons may stand to benefit from the technology too.

Traditionally, doctors have been skeptical of 3D imagery, preferring real experience, but the study—covering a range of 4 different screen systems (2D, 3D with glasses, 3D without glasses, and a mirror-based 3D system) with 50 surgeons—saw astonishing results. According to Hubertus Feussner, a surgeon at Klinikum rechts der Isar University Hospital in Munich, Germany, who was involved in the study, “With the glasses-based 3D system, the procedure was more than 15% shorter, and precision increased considerably.”

The study involved a simulation of a minimally invasive surgical procedure, in which the surgeons sewed up a wound in a model’s abdominal cavity using a needle and thread. Images were delivered by endoscopic cameras. As is the case with most invasive surgical procedures, the surgeons’ hands were obscured from view, so the doctors had to depend on the screen to complete the procedure.

“While the technology still requires some fine-tuning,” Feussner added, “technology without the need to wear special glasses will increase the popularity of 3D systems in operating rooms.” Regarding the results of the highest-ranked glasses-based 3D system? “Hand movements were more targeted than with the 2D model. As far as I know, we have not observed this effect among our experienced surgeons in the past.”

Following the 3D with glasses system, the surgeons involved in the study compared the glasses-free system to the 2D one. Presented at the Association of German Surgeons in April, the involved parties have no doubt that 3D will become a surgical commodity in the future.

The next step? Improving the glasses-free model.

Ulrich Leiner, from the study’s Heinrich Hertz Institute, stated, “The first ‘hard’ practical medical test showed great promise, as we were able to work on the fundamental eye-tracking technology.” Through eye tracking, separate cameras follow both eyes. The result? Each eye sees a separate image, and this creates the 3D effect without the use of glasses.

While many physicians are still skeptical of the technology, even with the benefits shown, this study is only the beginning for the team. As Leiner’s colleague Michael Witte added, “The next step is ultrahigh definition with 8K. This will mark a sixteen-fold improvement on the resolution of currently available full-HD images.”

Tell us, readers: should surgeons use 3D technology or just stick to the real experience?