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Real-Time VR Enhances View and Treatment Options in IR

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 05 Apr 2019
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Image: New research suggests virtual reality options could enable interventional radiologists to improve treatments using RT 3D images from inside a patient’s blood vessels (Photo courtesy of Techmaish).
Image: New research suggests virtual reality options could enable interventional radiologists to improve treatments using RT 3D images from inside a patient’s blood vessels (Photo courtesy of Techmaish).
New research presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting shows that immersive virtual reality (VR) could enable interventional radiologists to improve treatments using real-time 3D images from inside a patient’s blood vessels. The interactive technology could provide faster, more efficient treatment, with less radiation exposure and greater precision, ease and confidence.

The researchers conducted a study to demonstrate the feasibility of using a catheter with electromagnetic sensors projected onto a VR headset to see and steer the catheter through the anatomy to certain blood vessels. Using a CT angiography scan, they created a 3D printed model and a holographic image of blood vessels in a patient’s abdomen and pelvis. A team of radiologists guided hi-tech catheters through the 3D printed model while the tracking system showed the image from the catheter through the VR headset. They compared the time taken to steer the catheter from the entry point of the femoral artery to three different targeted vessels versus the time the process took using conventional fluoroscopic guidance, as well as the time taken in similar real-life clinical angiographic procedures.

In 18 simulated procedures, the researchers found the mean time to reach the three targeted vessels using VR was much lower than in fluoroscopy, the standard practice that uses an x-ray image. In the first vessel, VR took 17.6 seconds versus 70.3 seconds using the standard practice on the model and 171.2 seconds in the real-life procedure. With the improved efficiency, the researchers believe that VR technology will create safer treatments by reducing the amount of radiation exposure to both patient and physician, as well as increase access to IR treatments. The researchers also surveyed the practitioners who had tried the technology who reported that VR improved the ease, precision and efficiency of the treatment. Additionally, the users said they felt more confident in their abilities.

“Virtual reality will change how we look at a patient’s anatomy during an IR treatment. This technology will allow physicians to travel inside a patient’s body instead of relying solely on 2D, black and white images,” said Wayne Monsky, M.D, PhD, a professor of radiology at the University of Washington and lead author of the study. “Currently, the life-saving potential of IR is limited to hospitals and areas with the resources to invest in image-guided technology. There are three billion people worldwide in rural areas who don't have this access. This technology could allow for portability and accessibility so that these procedures are brought to rural areas using nothing more than a suitcase.”

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