Science fiction yesterday, tomorrow the new standard?
Augmented reality (AR) or virual reality (VR) has made a lot of headlines recently, especially in the video game industry. But the new technologies also offer great potential away from entertainment interests. A good example of this is the new AR system "3D-ARILE", which will be presented at the Medica fair from November 13th to 16th. The AR glasses are designed to help surgeons with difficult operations determine the exact position of tumors.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have developed the AR glasses as a navigation aid that is intended to make it easier for doctors to carry out the difficult procedure to remove tumors. Because malignant tumors often form metastases that can spread throughout the body. Determining the position and removal of such nodes requires a great deal of operational skill and experience from the attending physicians. With the help of data glasses, the exact position of the affected lymph node will be shown virtually in the future.
Hurry is required
The Federal Statistical Office reports that the number of skin cancer treatments in hospitals has increased significantly in recent years. A particularly aggressive form is black skin cancer, also known as malignant melanoma. With this type of cancer, if the cancer cells are transported from the lymph to the lymph nodes, metastases can form there. These metastases are called sentinel nodes. If they are first in the drainage area of a malignant tumor, there is an increased likelihood that other metastases will form in the area. Therefore, the early identification and removal of such nodes plays a crucial role in the fight against certain types of cancer such as skin, breast and prostate cancer.
Augmented reality sees what is hidden from the eye
Despite many new advances in cancer research, it is still difficult for doctors to determine the exact location of sentinel nodes during an operation and to determine whether the affected lymph node has been completely removed. "In order to make the affected lymph nodes visible, a fluorescent dye is injected into the patient's immediate vicinity, which is distributed over the lymph channels and collected in the sentinel lymph node," reports Dr. Stefan Wesarg, scientist at Fraunhofer IGD. The dye is excited to fluorescence by infrared light and can thus be captured by special cameras. The affected lymph node is reconstructed on the computer and its position is shown precisely in the AR glasses. “In our case, the diseased tissue is shown in green. The doctor can use the coloring to determine whether he has actually cut out everything necessary, ”explains Dr. Wesarg.
The Fraunhofer Institute reports that another advantage is the fluorescent dye used as an alternative to radioactive nanocolloid. So far, doctors have been using the radioactive nanocolloid technetium 99m as a medical marker. According to the Fraunhofer Institute, however, it only emits a weak light and the pictures taken by the special cameras take about 30 minutes to record the exact position of the lymph node. With the new technology, the image is displayed in real time and no additional monitor is required. "The doctor can concentrate entirely on the patient and thus operate more stress-free," says Dr. Wesarg. (fp)