4 key ways augmented reality could make an impact on interventional radiology

Augmented reality (AR) technology could play a pivotal role in the interventional radiology (IR) suite of the future, according to a new study published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology.

AR, which projects virtual content on top of a real-world environment, has numerous benefits over virtual reality (VR) technology, the authors explained. It can be used during image-guided interventions, for instance, and is less likely to leave a user feeling sick of uncomfortable.

These are four ways AR could affect IR in the near future, according to lead author Brian J.  Park, MD, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues:  

1. Assist with endovascular procedures

“The additional spatial information provided by AR can enable the interventional radiologist to obtain a more intuitive understanding of complex vascular anatomy,” Park and colleagues explained. “Currently, interventional radiologists must cognitively associate 2D images on a monitor screen with a mentally reconstructed 3D model. AR permits the ability to easily visualize 3D vascular anatomy from prior cross-sectional imaging for preprocedural planning or use as an intraprocedural reference.”

In addition, the authors added, users have unlimited views when utilizing AR. Ideal conditions can even be simulated to assist the radiologist before the procedure takes place.

2. Assist with percutaneous procedures

AR is already being used to help users complete percutaneous needle-based interventions, and the authors noted that these solutions are an effective way to achieve higher ablation success rates. Ideal conditions can once again be simulated as well, and those plans “can then be transferred and registered onto the patient for virtual procedural guidance using the planned trajectories.”

“This approach may give more confidence to the interventional radiologist for approaching and treating targets in challenging locations that were previously unfavorable, such as liver dome lesions requiring nonorthogonal or out-of-plane approaches,” the authors wrote.

3. Help train the next generation of interventional radiologists

Medical students can learn a lot through AR-based simulations, interacting with the immersive environment in a way that can improve their confidence. It is still unclear if AR simulations do a better job of preparing students than traditional training, the authors added, but it does provide instructors with a new way to reach their trainees.

4. Improve the IR suite’s workflow

“AR can have beneficial effects on all IR staff members,” the authors explained, noting that the technology can help with positioning the C-arm, projecting radiation dose and make it easier to maneuver throughout the suite.