Augmented Reality in Medicine: New frontiers of Healthcare

“When using augmented reality in the operating room, it’s like having a GPS navigator in front of your eyes in a natural way so you don’t have to look at a separate screen to see your patient’s CT scan”, said Dr. Timothy Witham, professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. And this is only one of the numerous benefits that the adoption of augmented reality in the medical field has generated. Augmented reality (AR), as we know, is the technology that allows digital content (such as images, video, objects, animation, etc..) to take place in the real world. It’s a technology that is changing the way we live, we think and most of all it’s shaping the future, leading us towards new innovative, smarter, and improved lifestyles.

In the medicine area, AR is creating new ways of helping people and saving lives like never before. It allows doctors to have more accuracy, more focus, more information, and, of course, a better outcome and diagnosis. By including virtual objects and tools in the real world, doctors can see things right in front of them, and in terms of accuracy, this is a huge step forward. Also, time speaking, it cuts all the waiting, looking, and searching moments, increasingly reducing the time of operations.

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electronic medical record concept. medical technology.

How Augmented Reality in medicine works

To integrate Augmented Reality into medicine we need to define some technical and practical aspects that allow us to use it properly.

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Why Augmented Reality in medicine is so important

AR can let us know if there are defibrillators nearby

It could happen all the time while walking in the street, that you might see someone who suddenly collapsed and of course, the first thing you’ll do is call an ambulance. Now, though, there are some apps that, using AR, can also tell you if there are defibrillators nearby so that you might be able to give additional help in the meantime. There could also be other applications that thanks to AR localization can be crucial in saving lives and giving essential information to individuals.

AR can teach us about the human body

Augmented reality is every year more used also in the education field, especially when talking about medicine. It is studied that studying (or teaching) by welcoming the help of Augmented reality can help students to learn better, faster, and especially to understand in a deeper way difficult concepts. Being able to see and try in a more 3-dimensional and immersive way, rather than reading a book, allows students to remember more and assimilate better. It is known that learning using other senses rather than just reading enhances the chances to remember, internalize and elaborate on harder and more articulated topics.

AR can be very appreciated both by kids who are willing to learn more about the human body in a funnier, more immersive way and for medicine students at the University that can learn faster, better, and though become better doctors. For instance, during a lecture, it could be possible to show a certain part of the body such as a heart or a bone, and have the chance to study it by watching it on your tablet or phone in 3D.

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The doctor uses augmented reality goggles and a human skeleton for teaching student

It’s marking the new frontiers of the surgery

Everyone knows that when it comes to surgery, precision is the crucial element for the outcome of an intervention and here it is where AR can show all its potential. Augmented Reality in medicine allows surgeons to be more precise ( Studies affirmed that AR gives the 98% of accuracy, which makes it at the same level or even higher than other methods). 

In June 2020, for instance, for the first time at Johns Hopkins a spinal surgery was made using AR technology on a living patient, and one of the first sentences that came out from the surgeon when talking about whether to use AR or not he says “I feel more comfortable when I use it”.

This was the first AR surgery and it was a spinal surgery on a living patient, but, as we have seen, AR surgery is expanding very fast, and also more complicated operations have been conducted with success. For example, AR surgery can involve cardiac operations, such as the removal or alterations of heart parts, and also bone tumor resection, allowing doctors to be more accurate and precise, and that makes patients feel safer and calmer.

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AR in medicine might also detect mental illnesses

Did you know that when talking, humans send unconscious messages through their facial movements, the position of the body, and also their tone of voice and that they have nothing to do with what they are saying? Well, a lot of us already know that by analyzing a person’s gestures and expressions, or the way he/she talks, for instance, it is possible to understand if that person seems attracted or interested in us, but, did you know that it is also possible to understand if that person might suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental conditions? Well, Augmented Reality can help with that too.

Through the scanning of a human body in movement, AR can detect if some gesture or expression might mean something serious and thus give us more awareness about our conditions. The other innovative part is that you might do the scanning on your own, or with the help of a familiar person, and only after your personal diagnosis, you can go to the doctor. In this way, you could spare time trying to do a personal diagnosis and/or help the doctor with a better and deeper diagnosis since you can give him more information about your condition.

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