BACKGROUND: Many surgical procedures, such as placement of intracranial drains, are currently being performed blindly, relying on anatomical landmarks. As a result, accuracy results still have room for improvement. Neuronavigation could address this issue, but its application in an urgent setting is often impractical. Augmented reality (AR) provided through a head-worn device has the potential to tackle this problem, but its implementation should meet physicians' needs.
METHODS: The Surgical Augmented Reality Assistance (SARA) project aims to develop an AR solution that is suitable for preoperative planning, intraoperative visualisation and navigational support in an everyday clinical setting, using a Microsoft HoloLens.
RESULTS: Proprietary hardware and software adaptations and dedicated navigation algorithms are applied to the Microsoft HoloLens to optimise it specifically for neurosurgical navigation. This includes a pipeline with an additional set of advanced, semi-automated algorithms responsible for image processing, hologram-to-patient registration and intraoperative tracking using infrared depth-sensing. A smooth and efficient workflow while maintaining high accuracy is prioritised. The AR solution provides a fully integrated and completely mobile navigation setup. Initial preclinical and clinical validation tests applying the solution to intracranial drain placement are described.
CONCLUSION: AR has the potential to vastly increase accuracy of everyday procedures that are frequently performed without image guidance, but could still benefit from navigational support, such as intracranial drain placements. Technical development should go hand in hand with preclinical and clinical validation in order to demonstrate improvements in accuracy and clinical outcomes.