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A first for touchless technology in vascular surgery

01 June 2012

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London is piloting touchless technology in the operating theatre. Surgeons at the Trust helped develop the system in conjunction with Microsoft Research, Lancaster University and King’s College London. The pioneering work, which uses Microsoft Kinect for Windows technology, is intended to explore the use of touchless interaction within surgical settings, enabling surgeons to view and manipulate medical images without contact.

Mr Tom Carrell, vascular surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: "This technology is very exciting as it allows me to easily and precisely control the imaging I need during operations. Touchless interaction means there is no compromise in the sterility of the operating field or in patient safety."
Surgeons operate in a challenging environment where they are required to maintain sterility at all times. Re-scrubbing is time consuming and therefore surgeons are frequently compelled to instruct others to manipulate visual-aid equipment for them, an often impractical and imprecise method.

This new gesture-based system utilizes Kinect for Windows hardware and the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK), to allow the vascular surgery team to maintain a sterile environment, whilst being able to view and manipulate medical images through a combination of gesture and voice control.

The software for the imaging surgery system was developed by researchers from King’s College London’s Imaging Sciences department to help the surgeons during complex aneurysm procedures. 

The touchless interaction component was developed by Gerardo Gonzalez, a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research from Lancaster University.
Dr Mark Rouncefield from the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University also worked on the project: “This is a lovely example of a successful interdisciplinary research project, combining the technical skills of computer scientists with a social scientific and medical expertise that ensures the new technology resonates with the way in which surgeons actually do their work."
The computer program visualises on-screen the patient’s 3D anatomy, which is acquired from a group of 2D images (which look like X-rays) taken at different view directions. The Kinect technology allows the surgeon to manipulate (e.g. rotate, pan and zoom) the medical imaging system by themselves, rather than instructing an assistant to do so. It is the first time the technology has been used in this way. 
The system is currently under trial on vascular patients at St Thomas’ Hospital with a view to expanding to the manipulation of 3D volumetric models of the brain for neurosurgery at other hospitals.
The ultimate aim is to develop a touchless interaction in surgery toolkit that can be used in any hospital or system interested in applying touchless interaction to their imaging system.

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