Mixed reality takes surgery into future

Dr Tim Yeoh uses a virtual-reality headset to visualise his patient’s shoulder replacement procedure

It looks like something out of Hollywood blockbusters such as Minority Report or Marvel’s Iron Man, as the protagonist expertly manipulates detailed 3D holograms seemingly in the air in front of him.

But in this case the leading man is not Tom Cruise or Robert Downey Jnr, but orthopaedic surgeon Dr Tim Yeoh – and the setting is St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Sydney, where a breakthrough new procedure is being performed.

St Vincent’s is the first hospital in New South Wales to offer shoulder replacement surgery using mixed-reality technology, which allows a surgeon to view a 3D hologram of the patient’s anatomy and preoperative plan whilst operating.

“This mixed-reality technology is probably the most exciting thing that’s happened in shoulder replacements over the last five years,” Dr Yeoh said.

Today’s hologram technology is not yet as advanced as that which movies can portray, with Cruise’s police officer character able to control projected computer files with mere hand gestures while Downey’s Tony Stark can similarly design and construct his superhero robot suit.

However, wearing a special virtual-reality headset, Dr Yeoh can visualise, manipulate and interact with the computer-generated images, enabling him to see and overlay the plan on the patient in real time.

“This is the beauty of this new technology, I can see it live,” Dr Yeoh said.

“I can move the hologram into the surgical field, and really get that confidence that we are being accurate to our plan.”

Dr Yeoh said the technology was a “game-changer for shoulder replacement surgery” at the hospital.

“We are committed to delivering excellence in orthopaedic care and this innovative technology allows us to deliver our plans accurately and reliably. This enables us to meet the unique needs of our patients,” he said.

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