VR glasses that will enable doctors to see inside their patient’s body will enormously benefit people with facial tumors and disfiguring paralysis. The technology will uncover the precise layout of delicate nerves surrounding growths which will allow surgeons to navigate around without causing any damage to them.
In the UK, 30 patients have already benefited from the technology and a lot more could follow if the procedure is rolled out across the NHS in the future. The glasses are currently being tested at the University College London Hospital where surgeons have begun deploying them as a treatment for parotid tumors.
Parotid tumors are abnormal lumps that grow on the parotid glands located in front of the ears. Smoking is believed to be a factor that leads to this condition but there is not much known about other causes.
The surgery to treat these tumors is potentially dangerous as the glands are intertwined with the main facial nerve, any damage to which can obstruct the facial movements. More than a quarter of patients suffer some facial paralysis with conventional surgeries. This leaves them with several troubles including the inability to close their eyes or move their lower lip to speak, eat or drink properly.
The HoloLens, developed by Microsoft, would presumably reduce the injury rate from almost a third to as low as seven percent.
The process comprises a detailed MRI scan of the tumor site which is then enhanced by a radiologist and uploaded to the glasses for the surgeon to plan the procedure.
“Until now, performing this surgery was like being a blind person trying to find the edge of a cliff in a snowstorm,” said Professor Mark McGurk, a surgeon who has pioneered use of the technology.
“You wouldn’t find out where things were until you started the operation. Now, with the hologram headset, I can do a dress rehearsal the day before and work out a line of approach before we even start,” he added.
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