Recently Alexander Rau, MD, Roland Roelz, MD, Horst Urbach, MD, Volker Arnd Coenen, MD, Theo Demerath, MD, Peter Christoph Reinacher, MD published a paper in which they examined the use of augmented reality (AR) — the real-time integration of virtual data into the user’s environment — in rhizotomy of the Gasserian ganglion. This common but challenging neurosurgical procedure is used to treat trigeminal neuralgia. The objective was to overcome the difficulties of manual landmark-guided cannulation of the foramen ovale by assessing the feasibility and accuracy of an AR-guided puncture.
For their methods, they used a head phantom constructed with soft tissue structures of the face. A 3D dataset of the phantom was then created and an optimal trajectory to the foramen ovale was generated using a stereotactic planning station. This plan was transferred to the AR headset to be used for AR-guided cannulation, which involved superimposing the imaging data and aligning it with the phantom.
Watch the video under Methods to see how AR aided in planning
Accuracy was evaluated using the Euclidean distance to the target point and lateral deviation of the actual to the planned trajectory. The results showed that, with the help of AR guidance, cannulation was successful 90.6% of the time compared to the landmark-based only method at just 18.8%. They were able to conclude that AR greatly improved the accuracy of the procedure.
„We see a great potential of AR-based planning and execution for minimizing risks of cannulating of the foramen ovale. This minimally invasive procedure is challenging and is subject to several considerable risks due to the proximity of the foramen ovale to critical (vascular, cerebral, neural) structures.“
The potential for virtual and augmented reality in healthcare is just beginning to unfold. Studies such as these are a valuable element in the progression of this technology in the field. We highly recommend reading the entirety of this fascinating study for more in depth information about their methods and results.