Using Augmented Reality in Healthcare

With the ever-changing landscape in technology, some of those principles have been transferred over to the field of medicine. One of the more unique but critical types of engineering used in the medical field is augmented reality or AR. A cross between virtual reality and computer imaging, AR give doctors a chance to see things in their patients they missed before. Here are a few examples of how augmented reality is used in the medical and healthcare fields.

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What Is Augmented Reality?

AR is very similar to visual technologies like virtual reality, except that it uses your real-time view of the world through a digital device. It overlays an image or other types of media across your view on the screen to add a different reality to it. This differs from virtual reality because the landscapes in virtual reality are entirely digital and every element added is also digital. Many cellular phone games now incorporate this method into their programming. It can also be used in practical applications such as car repair, training soldiers, and retail settings. Like the video games that work with AR, you can also look at the stars and learn constellations through your phone. 

Augmented Reality in Surgery

One place where AR has successful results is in the surgical suite. During an Augmented Reality operation, the surgeon lays the patient’s scans over their body digitally through the mask they are wearing. This allows them to see precisely where they need to make an incision and what areas they need to work with. This limits the chance for error since they have a clear vision of the patient’s anatomy through this superimposed graphic. This information can be accessed immediately instead of researching through the patient’s chart to see what needs to be done and how to accomplish it.

Augmented reality also gives a surgeon an extra tool to find problems that previous tests would miss. They can catch diseases while in the early stages before aggressive measures have to be taken: One particular type of surgery where this is a game-changer is brain surgery. This area of the anatomy is so sensitive that one wrong move could be devastating. There are many blood vessels, and other delicate tissues operating on the brain can be difficult. Using augmented reality, a surgeon can superimpose a scan of a patient’s brain to the real view he is seeing through the goggles then navigate his steps, knowing where and how to proceed.

Using AR In Emergency Situations

Paramedics and emergency room physicians can utilize augmented reality in critical situations when a patient needs help immediately. Instead of thumbing through a patient’s chart, whether it is paper or online, they can summon the information they need immediately through the AR glasses and see directly on the person’s body where there might be issues that will need to be addressed while treating them. It will indicate any artificial prosthetics, parts of the body that might have a defect or are monitored for anomalies, or health situations that might affect what services emergency personnel might provide. This gives the patient a better chance of survival when every piece of information is available and used instantly.

This can also be applied when the situation involves a broken bone that must be set. The doctor who is treating the patient can use the x-ray image taken and call it up on the headset that he wears. Through it, he can see the fractured bone and where specifically it lays within the patient. The physician can provide complete care since he will know what spot needs to be set and whether more intensive treatment such as surgery to set the bones with a pin must occur. There has been software designed to move the scan with the patient’s movements, making the doctor’s actions reliable even if the person has moved into another position.

Imposed Images In Reconstructive Surgery

Cosmetic surgeons can use augmented reality for the delicate work they must do. Using such a tool helps them avoid the muscles, tissues, bones, and blood vessels that could cause problems if they are nicked. The scans also tell the doctor how blood in that particular area moves. They can navigate the damaged area a patient needs help with and repair it with fewer incisions since they are exact.

This also cuts down the amount of time a patient is on the operating table and how long it will take to heal. Adding the image digitally over the patient’s body makes the procedure safer and healing faster. If surgery requires a prosthetic, 3D augmented reality programs can help the designer make the new limb fit exactly to the patient it is meant for. They can take a scan of the body and, with the help of AR, mold it and form it to fit exactly, so it is useful and fits comfortably.

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Scanning the Body To Look For Clues

Imaging is vital to augmented reality. A doctor needs x-rays, CT scans, and MRI tests to compare them to their patients. These are the images that a physician will superimpose against the natural scene they see in their goggles. Imaging also creates the 3D models that instructors can present to their class for teaching purposes. Family doctors can also use these models to point out where they are feeling ill or sore.

The doctor can, in turn, show on the image what treatment they want to do and what body systems it will affect. Pharmacists can use 3D images to show the side effects of a drug on the body. Radiologists also have an imaging device that gets a 360-degree picture of a patient’s limb to give the doctor a better idea of what might be happening and how to make it better. It is easy for you but gives a detailed description of any injury.

Tracing the Blood Flow Through Scans

Augmented reality can be found outside the operating and emergency room. Laboratories now use AR to find a patient’s veins before they draw blood. Once they scan the limb, they need to pull from it. They can overlay the image directly onto the patient’s skin. This gives the technician a real-life view of where the best vein will cause less pain to the person getting the draw. This reduces pain and discomfort for the patient, and there is less chance of trauma such as bruising. Nurses can also use this tool to readminister IV lines that might have been disconnected or seem to flow slowly into the bloodstream. A patient will recover quicker if they get a full dose of the proper medication when they need it.

Augmented Reality During a Scoping

There are many reasons why a patient would need to have a scoping done. The most common of these would be a colonoscopy. While a camera is usually involved with these procedures, AR would allow the doctor to scan the patient as a map to guide the camera through the body. Doing this would give the physician a better idea of where they were going in a patient’s body to concentrate on finding the issues they are looking for. This would also make the test easier for the patient undergoing, have a less likely chance of something going wrong, and let the anesthesiologist use less sedative on the patient undergoing the test.

Mapping Out The Human Eye With AR Technology

The eye contains many tiny blood vessels that are difficult to work out unless there is guidance. With augmented reality, an optometrist can make a model of a patient’s eye so they can study it and make a diagnosis. They can reference the model when they perform eye surgery. A patient will have a shorter recovery time with less pain. An optometrist can use the model to explain to their patients what they found and how it can be treated, giving a greater understanding of those involved. There is also software that lets a patient see themselves in a pair of glasses to be comfortable with their choice before they purchase them.

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Using Augmented Reality To Diagnose Dental Problems

Along with other parts of a patient’s anatomy, augmented reality can improve a person’s dental health. Many dentists already take 3D digital scans of a patient’s mouth so that they can see firsthand what problems there might be. With the AR glasses, the dentist can see where there might be an infection in a patient or how deep into a tooth a cavity may go. This gives the dentist an exact place to drill if they need to, reducing the discomfort the patient is in.

Oral surgeons have the opportunity to use it to extract teeth or perform other procedures. A dentist can use software to design an implant or crown just like a doctor can develop a prosthetic for a limb. This allows the dental piece to be comfortable for the patient. It can also be used to train dental students and dental assistants. Instructors can create 3D virtual models with AR software that allows students to see and experience many different types of dental issues to examine and remedy the problem.

Teaching Future Generations With Hands-On Experience

Medical students can look inside the human body to see how it works with the benefit of augmented reality. While they have a chance to do this with a cadaver, they can see the systems work in real-time with AR and a volunteer who lets them do an examination. With this technology, they can watch how blood flows to and from the heart, how muscles contract, and how joints move.

With the new software, they can also study this while the patient moves to see how the body functions both stationary and in motion. They can see in real-time any health issues the volunteer has and discuss how they can be remedied. Instructors can also manufacture 3D images of body parts for students to study, evaluate and discuss. AR is also a great tool when a doctor must explain what is happening to a patient. They can allow a patient to see what happens to be wrong and what the physician will do to correct it. They can also see where a surgeon may make an incision and what other things may happen during a procedure.

Augmented Reality and the Patient Experience

While AR is a vital tool for healing a patient, it can also provide a distraction as they heal. Augmented reality games can be provided to a patient, especially a child, to keep them still and busy while they are in the hospital. This will cause them to fidget less, pulling free intravenous tubes and other equipment needed to help them heal. It can also take their mind off of the pain, even for a little while. This could reduce the need for pain relievers since the game’s enjoyment has taken their mind off the discomfort.

Augmented reality can also be used as a rehabilitation tool. Patients can wear AR glasses to relearn tasks that may have fallen by the wayside due to a catastrophic injury. It can help a patient through physical therapy by coercing them to move as they play an AR game. To succeed at the game, they must physically rotate a limb or frame, making what could be painful therapy a fun experience. The therapist can also program the glasses to simulate items in the patient’s home that they will need to learn to adapt to or move around. People can get back to the life they once knew before their injury using augmented reality.

The New Face Of Medicine

Technological advances in medicine benefit the physician and the patient. Augmented reality provides an excellent training tool for instructors to teach future doctors what they should look for when diagnosing a patient. It gives surgeons a safe guide when operating on a patient, allowing for fewer incisions and promoting a quicker healing time. Also, it provides a building block for those designing implants or prosthetics so that their patients can live pain-free lives. It also helps patients recuperate from surgeries and illnesses so they can get back to normal. This fascinating type of technology has the potential to benefit even more people in the future. 

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Paisley Hansen

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