Virtual reality has helped surgeons from across the world jointly operate on a bowel cancer patient at an NHS hospital.
Three surgeons from Mumbai and London all wore Microsoft HoloLens headsets in order to appear live in an operating theatre at The Royal London Hospital where professor Shafi Ahmed was operating to remove a tumour.
Professor Ahmed was joined in the operating theatre on Thursday, 19 October by professor Shailesh Shrikhande, a cancer surgeon at Tata Me Memorial Hospital in Mumbai and Hitesh Patel, a consultant colorectal surgeon at BMI The London Independent Hospital.
They could all ‘see’ each other moving as graphic avatars, standing and speaking as if together in the room.
Three dimensional holograms of scans of the tumour were hovered in the theatre which allowed the specialists to virtually draw on the image to aid discussion while the patient was on the operating table.
Professor Ahmed, who is a colorectal surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “We have truly integrated technology with healthcare.”
“By bringing together specialists in real time from across the world and different time zones we have demonstrated that we can make surgery safer and ensure the best patient outcomes.”
“Augmented and virtual reality have incredible potential, not only in the NHS but also to encourage collaboration to improve accessibility, equality and safety in developing countries.”
Currently medical and nursing specialists at hospitals have regular team meetings to discuss the care of complex patient cases in which they often refer to patient scans.
However, this means that insight is limited to those who have attended the meeting and with emergency surgery, there may not be time to discuss the complexities.
When it comes down to the operation however, the surgeons are often on their own.
Professor Ahmed has been dubbed “the virtual surgeon” and has been a strong supporter of the use of technology during surgery.
In 2014 he used Google glasses to aid the learning of surgical students by transporting 13,000 people from 115 countries directly into the operating theatre.
Earlier this year, Digital Health News reported that University College London Hospitals NHS Trust was exploring whether Microsoft’s HoloLens could help surgeons operating on patients with kidney cancer.