One of the most revolutionary advances in medical practice is the development of minimally invasive surgery. These procedures rely on one or more tiny incisions, through which trocars (similar to catheters) are inserted that can deliver tiny cameras (laparoscopes and endoscopes) and surgical instruments. Surgeons watch display screens to guide their instruments which are concealed within the patient’s body.

A new approach may give surgeons a powerful way to view their progress during minimally invasive procedures. Cambridge Consultants is a company that is developing an augmented reality (AR) system that will give surgeons the ability to look “inside” a patient’s body as if they had X-ray vision. The system takes medical imaging data and provides a 3D representation to the surgeon wearing AR glasses. It relies on off-the-shelf components such as the Microsoft Hololens and custom software to let doctors see a more accurate representation of their procedure as they operate, making it easier to “see” what they are doing compared with the two-dimensional imaging that they must rely on now. The system also delivers other real-time data to the surgeon’s view, such as the patient’s vital signs, without having to look away.

The Cambridge Consultants AR system is still under development and not yet ready for clinical applications with human patients, but it holds the promise of making current procedures faster, more accurate, and safer, resulting in better outcomes for the patients.