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Not just for Pokémon Go: Augmented reality could improve neurosurgery

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Neurosurgeons may soon be able to visualize hidden parts of the brain while performing surgery.

Neurosurgery residents Dr. Shervin Rahimpour and Dr. Andrew Cutler collaborated with Dr. Regis Kopper—director of Duke immersive Virtual Environment—and Yameng Liu, a master’s student in engineering, to create a more efficient way to conduct brain procedures. Using a pair of augmented reality glasses known as Microsoft HoloLens, Kopper and Liu developed a simulation in which the ventricles in the brain were accurately overlaid on the head of a mannequin.

“Until HoloLens, [augmented reality] has been pretty unstable in the sense that it wasn’t very good at registering things in the environment in real time,” Kopper said.

Kopper added that although augmented and virtual reality are not entirely new to medicine, their use in the past has been limited.

“One of the early uses of [virtual reality] from the ‘90s was actually exposure therapy,” he said.

Exposure therapy is the psychological method of exposing patients to their fears in order to cure them. For example, a patient deathly afraid of heights may be repeatedly exposed to a cliff through virtual reality goggles to help overcome the fear.

But when Rahimpour and Cutler approached Kopper, they were interested in a far more complex simulation to help tackle a routine, yet occasionally tricky procedure—an extraventricular drain.

“What we all do emergently is drill a small hole in the skull and then pass this catheter into that fluid space to drain off the fluid,” Cutler said. “The idea is to drop the pressure immediately and give the fluid a new way to get out of the head.”

… read more of this article by Nathan Luzum on The Chronicle

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