What is Augmented Reality in Medicine?

How Augmented Reality (AR) is Changing the Way We Practice Medicine

In just about every field — as well as in everyday life — technology continues to evolve and astound in its ability to transform the ways in which we do things. We are capable of more than we ever thought possible as a result of the latest developments, most notably tools such as augmented reality (AR).

When you picture things such as augmented reality, it’s not uncommon to immediately conjure images of science fiction movies and futuristic inventions, but the reality is that this kind of technology is not only available but expanding our current possibilities in many different ways.

One of the biggest ways in which augmented reality is making waves is in the field of medicine. But what is augmented reality? And why prioritize AR technology over virtual reality (VR)? Let’s break down the differences between the two, how AR is being used in medicine, and how important it could be in transforming diagnosis and treatment for years to come.

What is augmented reality?

In its simplest definition, augmented reality is when certain images, visuals, or sounds are superimposed over real-world images so that they can be viewed concurrently. By means of contrast, virtual reality is defined as a completely simulated render. So where VR is 100% computer-generated images, AR is more likely to be a composition of computer-generated images and real-world views.

What is augmented reality used for?

To put this in a medical context, then, augmented reality would allow doctors and other medical practitioners to view a patient’s body from the outside, with images of interior details overlaid.

This provides many benefits, many of which should be immediately apparent. The first of these is that, in certain situations, it allows for the diagnosis and treatment of a patient using completely non-invasive techniques. And it does so with increased accuracy — so where virtual reality, for example, would require a complete visual mock-up of a patient, AR allows doctors to view medical images overlaid directly onto a patient. This means there is a smaller margin of error. Because of the real-world surroundings, it also avoids the disorientation that can come with virtual reality.

The capabilities provided by augmented reality make for an exciting view of the future. It is not inconceivable to suggest that sometime soon doctors may be able to perform full surgeries using AR technology. This would allow them far greater insight than has previously been possible while operating, and provide the opportunity to operate more efficiently and accurately through the use of overlaying up-to-date and 100 percent accurate medical images while operating.

What is an augmented reality system?

A current example of augmented reality currently exists in the form of Novarad’s OpenSight. This is a unique pre-surgical planning solution built on years of advanced imaging experience. This AR technology uses a Microsoft HoloLens headset to enable clinicians to see 3D patient images accurately overlaid onto the patient. These images also automatically move with the patient without the wearer having to adjust each time.

To learn more about this groundbreaking technology, visit our OpenSight page and request a demo now.

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