A new study has shown that even experienced surgeons stand to benefit from 3-D technology.
While physicians have largely ignored 3D technology until now, it appears to be getting a second chance, according to a new study of the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI and Klinikum rechts der Isar university hospital in Munich.Thanks in particular to improved 3D-glasses and screens, practical tests have recently shown that 3D systems used in medical technology have benefits that were once believed to be purely theoretical.Researchers showed that even experienced physicians could benefit from the latest generation of 3D devices, after some 50 surgeons responded positively to 3D systems both with and without glasses.“While the technology still requires some fine-tuning, technology that does without the need to wear special glasses will increase the popularity of 3D systems in operating rooms. In the past, surgeons were hesitant to use the technology precisely because of the glasses,” says Dr. Ulrich Leiner, head of the Interactive Media – Human Factors department at HHI.The study was conducted as a result of current developments in 3D screen technology which have seen 4K models for medical applications that offer quad HD resolution become readily available.“The next step is ultra-high definition with 8K. This will mark a sixteen-fold improvement on the resolution of currently available full-HD images,” says Michael Witte of HHI in explaining current trends.Mr Witte is convinced that 3D without glasses will contribute to a lasting breakthrough.“This is why the researchers thought it was high time to carry out a scientific test that would assess whether 3D technology has reached the level of maturity required of sensitive hospital applications,” he said.Surgeons participating in the test tried a total of four different screen systems: 2D, 3D with and without glasses, and a mirror apparatus that served as the ideal 3D model.Images were delivered by endoscopic cameras that the doctors used during a simulated routine surgical procedure in which physicians sewed up a wound with ten stitches using a needle and thread in a model abdominal cavity.Just as would be the case in a minimally invasive surgical procedure, the surgeons did not have a direct view of their hands, and thus depended on the screen.“The results were astonishing: with the glasses-based 3D system, the procedure was more than 15 per cent shorter, and precision increased considerably. Hand movements were more targeted than with the 2D model.“As far as I know, we have not observed this effect among our experienced surgeons in the past,” says Professor Hubertus Feußner in describing the test winner.The surgeon, who has worked at Klinikum rechts der Isar for over 30 years, has conducted several thousand operations.“In the past, it was the most experienced physicians in particular who were very skeptical of 3D technology. And this was not only because it hardly offered any tangible benefits. Many physicians felt uncomfortable looking at the screens, and preferred to rely on their experience as a result,” says PD Dr. Silvano Reiser, Feußner’s colleague.The model without glasses also made a positive impression – test participants considered its quality as comparable to 2D.“Unfortunately, the system we developed was unable to take the first place ranking. But the first hard practical medical test showed great promise, as we were able to work on the fundamental eye-tracking technology.“This is where, through eye-tracking, cameras follow both eyes, and each eye sees a separate image. This creates a 3D effect without glasses,” Leiner said.