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3D Glasses: A New Tool for Surgeons?

3D Glasses: A New Tool for Surgeons?
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Surgeons generally use the same types of tools when operating on patients; this list includes scissors, forceps, retractors and scalpels. Of course, the practice of surgery has evolved significantly over the years, and with it the tools used to mend patients have also undergone changes. Surprising as it may sound, 3D glasses are one new device that could greatly impact surgery in the future.

The Limits of Laparoscopy

Many surgeries performed today are laparoscopic procedures, meaning that they do not require large incisions to be made in the patient’s body. Instead, the surgeon makes several small openings, using them to insert a variety of instruments into the patient’s abdomen and/or pelvis. Among these instruments is a thin and flexible tube called a laparoscope. The tiny cameras at the end of laparoscopes transmit images from inside the body to a video screen, allowing the surgeon to properly operate on the patient.

Whenever possible, surgeons generally opt for laparoscopies over more invasive surgeries. The smaller incisions from laparoscopic procedures leave less of a mark on patients, meaning that there is much less scarring on the body. In addition, this type of surgery typically involves less pain and shorter recovery times. Unfortunately, some surgeons find this procedure to be fairly challenging, as they are forced to rely on video screen images when maneuvering their instruments.

3D Glasses And Surgery

In recent years, surgeons have begun to test systems that utilize 3D glasses during operating procedures. This medical device offers surgeons a more detailed look at laparoscopic images, similar to how 3D glasses give theatre patrons a richer view of movie screens.  One such test occurred in 2011, when a surgeon used a pair of prototype 3D glasses while performing gastric bypass surgery on a patient (the images from inside the body were displayed on a 3D color monitor). Following the procedure, the surgeon had highly complimentary things to say about the glasses, praising the “remarkable” view of the abdominal cavity it provided.

Not all of these proposed 3D devices work in the same manner. In fact, at least one doesn’t involve glasses at all. A 2012 study enlisted 50 surgeons to try out the following forms of surgical technology:

  • A 2D system
  • A 3D system with glasses
  • A 3D system which did not include glasses
  • A device that used mirrors to create three dimensional images

It should be noted that the glasses-free system employed eye-tracking camera technology, allowing it to create 3D effects in the brain by transmitting visual data to each eye.

To test the effectiveness of these systems, all participating surgeons were asked to perform a simulated surgery. This procedure required them to mend a model patient’s stomach wound with a needle and thread. In order to realistically mimic laparoscopic surgeries, the surgeons’ hands were blocked from their view, forcing them to rely on a monitor for guidance.

Both young and more experienced surgeons alike appeared to benefit dramatically from this new 3D technology. One surgeon, Dr. Hubertus Feussner, was able to finish the procedure fifteen minutes faster than usual, and was able to do so with an increased amount of precision and accuracy (Feussner described his results as “astonishing”). When asked to rate the effectiveness of the four surgical methods, the surgeons gave the 3D glasses system the most praise. In contrast, the glasses-free system received the same rating as the 2D technology.

Up until recently, very few people associated 3D products with anything other than certain forms of entertainment. The potential of specialized 3D glasses, however, could cause that to change over the coming years.

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