Live Imaging Supports Surgeons During the OP

Computer scientists and physicists of the University of Bremen together with researchers from the Bremen Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Computer Imaging (MEVIS) are planning to pool their efforts in a project designed to provide surgeons with live imaging while actually conducting OPs. To this end they are developing new approaches involving interaction with three-dimensional pre-operative planning data live in the operating room. The project is supported as a Creative Unit within the frame of the University of Bremen’s Excellence Initiative funding. The Creative Unit with the title “Intra-Operative Information” will receive 750,000 in total.

In future, surgeons will have the complex information they need during a brain or liver OP at their fingertips precisely when they need it. “We are working on the assumption that during an actual operation surgeons may suddenly find themselves in need of extra information”, explains project leader Ron Kikinis, Professor for Computer Science at the University of Bremen and Professor for Radiology at the Harvard Medical School in Boston. He now also heads the Fraunhofer MEVIS. A pioneer of computer aided medicine, in 1999 he founded the “Surgical Planning Laboratory” (SPL) in Boston. “In the Creative Unit we will be investigating precisely which information at which time can be supplied to the operating surgeon in the form of imaging data.” In order to gain an accurate impression of clinical workflow, those members of the research team who do not already possess in-depth medical knowledge will not only have to work closely with medical staff and surgeons, but also actually sit in on brain and liver operations to observe what goes on during an actual OP.

The Bremen researchers will cooperate closely with two highly experienced clinical specialists: the liver surgeon, Professor Karl Oldhafer from Klinikum Hamburg-Barmbek and brain surgeon Professor Arya Nabavi from the International Neuroscience Institute (INI) in Hanover. The computer experts, engineers, and scientists have already observed live operations at both these clinics. Later on, the results of the three-year research project will be put to the test there, too. “During a brain operation to remove a tumor, for instance, the surgeons have to look through a microscope. This is an area where we can play a role, integrating 3D imaging information at the moment required”, says Professor Rainer Malaka from the Center for Computing and Communication Technologies (TZI), who brings in the expertise in the area of interaction. “In the OP room everything is sterilized and the surgeon needs both hands while performing the operation. What we need, therefore, is to be able to steer things by remote control via gesturing or language from hardware installed outside the room. No place for the classic interfaces like keyboard or mouse in this particular situation.”

Professor Gabriel Zachmann, leader of the research group Computer Graphics at TZI, is developing an initial work package for automatic illumination during a liver OP. “In this case, a whole team is standing around the operating table and working closely together; whereas in the case of brain surgery all eyes are on the surgeon. A lot of people are moving around the table and often blocking the view of what the surgeon is doing with their hands or other parts of their body”, Zachmann explains. To avoid breaks during which the OP lamps are adjusted we have designed an automatic lighting control. “We want to achieve real-time tracking of the operating staff by incorporating motors in the lamps”, he says.

Other research partners in the Creative Unit include the Professor Christian Freksa, leader of the research group Cognitive Systems, and Professor Matthias Guenther, of MEVIS and the MR-Physics Research Group at the University of Bremen’s Center for Cognitive Science. As part of a worldwide network of clinical and academic partners, Fraunhofer MEVIS develops practicable software systems for the image-supported early identification of disease, diagnosis and therapy. The main focus is on cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as disease of the brain, breast, liver and lungs.

If you would like to have more information on this topic, please contact:

University of Bremen
Center for Computing and Communication Technologies (TZI)
Knut Köstergarten
Phone: +49 421/89781696
Cell: +49 176/28059267
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