A children’s hospital in the UK has teamed up with Black Marble, a Microsoft partner, to integrate augmented reality technology to improve surgical outcomes.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, which cares for more than 270,000 children, will implement Microsoft’s HoloLens technology to help doctors easily access imaging and other data during surgery.

The HoloLens is a headset that is able to overlay digital images onto a person’s field of view, essentially mixing virtual reality with the real world.

HoloLens allow the wearer to easily create 3D holograms and interact with them in the real world, so they can see up-to-date information on a patient while they are operating on them.

“Imaging a patient’s heart from the inside and from the outside is absolutely essential,” said Cardiac Surgeon at Alder Hey, Rafael Guerrero. “I have to visualise that 3D view in my head in order to do this operation. You can display those images on a screen in the operating theatre sometimes, but it’s not easily accessible; and I can’t leave in the middle of an operation to go get more information about my patient. In many cases, the heart has already stopped in order for us to operate.”

“Microsoft HoloLens and mixed reality will, in the future, enable me to have a patient’s scans in front of me while I’m doing the operation. If I can use technology to obtain that information, to see those images in front of me, that helps me tremendously and improves the outcome for my patient,” continued Guerrero.

Previously, before performing a heart operation, for example, Alder Hey assembles a team of clinicians, surgeons, doctors and nurses to review a patient’s ultrasounds, CT scans and angiograms to determine the best course of treatment. The surgeon would have to use his hands to check up on this information if he needed it during surgery.

HoloLens will give surgeons access to information that may have not previously been available during surgery, all in real-time and without the surgeon having to use their hands.

Along with the HoloLens technology, the hospital will introduce Microsoft’s Surface Hub, a kind of digital whiteboard, in the meeting rooms. The Surface Hub will allow doctors to collaborate and use one digital screen to share patient charts, tests and medical images that are traditionally written on paper and located in several places around the hospital.

The hospital is currently working with Black Marble to develop an app to operate the technology.

“HoloLens has powerful visualisation capabilities. Coupled with the Surface Hub, which is excellent for transforming collaborative experiences, we saw a range of opportunities for creating engaging user experiences,” said Chief Executive of Black Marble, Robert Hogg.

“The common factor for both these devices is that they are delivered on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which enabled us to write the application once, and still take advantage of the best features of both devices,” continued Hogg.

Black Marble’s app utilises InkCanvas and Ink Toolbar so multiple people can write notes on the Surface Hub at once. These are then time-stamped and show the name of the author, and can be uploaded to HoloLens during a later operation.

For now, Black Marble has stored and secured sample data in Azure Blob Storage. However, it hopes to integrate the app into Alder Hey’s existing data systems so information can be securely viewed and updated.

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