Endoscope surgeries to become 3-D

JAPAN - Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Sony Corp. have jointly developed a new system that enables multiple doctors wearing head-mounted displays to see 3-D images of a target area taken by an endoscope during surgery.

The system was developed by Kazunori Kihara, a professor at the university, and Sony, and will likely attract attention worldwide for offering a next-generation surgical system developed in Japan, sources said.

The system utilizes commercially available displays for watching 3-D movies at home. The displays are integrated with an operation technique called Portless Endoscopic Surgery (PLES), which was developed by Kihara in 1998. In PLES, an endoscope and other surgical tools are inserted into a patient's body through a hole in the abdomen measuring three to four centimeters in diameter.

The 3-D displays allow doctors to clearly assess the depth of a target organ in the patient's body. Therefore, operations involving blood vessels and organs deep inside the body can be conducted more safely and accurately.

With the new system, a surgeon, his or her assistants and the doctor manipulating the endoscope can work together, viewing the same 3-D images on their individual head-mounted displays.

Unlike conventional endoscopic operations, which are carried out using images projected onto a large monitor in the operation room, doctors do not have to continuously look at the screen with the new system. As the lower part of the display has a wide opening, doctors are also able to look at their hands and the patient on the operating table.

Images on the display can be easily changed with the flip of a switch to show ultrasonic or X-ray images that are taken during the operation, and computerized tomography data that was captured before the procedure. It is also possible to display multiple images simultaneously on a split screen.

The displays currently in use weigh 330 grams. According to Kihara, there should be no problems with wearing the displays for operations that last up to six to seven hours.

During clinical research trials that have taken place since October 2011, the new system was used in about 250 operations, including those for kidney and prostate cancer.

According to Kihara, based on the duration of operations, the amount of bleeding noted and potential complications, the safety and treatment outcomes of the new method have been positive.

"[As doctors] can monitor organs in a sterile manner, operations can be conducted more safely and precisely, which is also highly beneficial for the patient," Kihara said.

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