The application of XR technologies, commonly known as Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality, is increasingly present in fields such as medicine. They are, on many occasions, the ideal complement to the daily work of doctors and surgeons since, thanks to these technologies, they can study the body structures of patients in a more precise, safe way and without posing any risk to the patient.
At ARSOFT, we know the importance of this type of technology to improve not only people's quality of life but also to prevent deaths in hospitals because the surgeon, at some point during the operation, has not a Good understanding of the patient's anatomy.
In this context, in collaboration with the VisualMed Systems research group of the University of Salamanca, we have developed a platform, NextMed, for health professionals to study medical images using Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality technologies. Through the segmentation and automatic generation of 3D models, NextMed helps medical professionals to analyze and manipulate the 3D model of the organs that have to intervene. In this way, the doctor can visualize his patients' anatomy in Virtual Reality to later plan the surgery and even simulate it within a virtual environment.
Juan Antonio Juanes, is a professor in the Human Anatomy area and director of the Advanced Medical Visualization Systems Research Group at the University of Salamanca (VisualMed Systems). In this interview, he reveals to us the work they are carrying out thanks to the NextMed platform and the advantages of this tool for medical training and clinical practice.
Question: What does NextMed technology bring to the field of medicine?
NextMed has an advantage over other systems on the market. Most of the systems are now rebuilt from semi-automated or manual segmentations. What Nextmed wants is that, from the images obtained directly from the magnetic resonance equipment, it can automatically reconstruct, and also from personal computers, an entire anatomical structure in three dimensions. This not only facilitates the diagnosis but also allows surgical planning to be carried out to later carry out a rehearsed approach before doing so on an actual patient. Therefore, NextMed has a very promising projection in the field of medicine.
Q: Can XR technologies be considered an ally in teaching?
These technologies are now beginning to emerge strongly in medical training. I am dedicated to teaching Human Anatomy, and the vision of body structures in 3D is very relevant. There are indeed very abundant atlases in this sense, but atlases are static, cold images that we cannot move as we want. The advantage of these systems is that we can navigate over them and get a very up-to-date view of those structures. In this context, we have developed to study the skull from the inside, both outside and inside. We have already experienced it with students, and the truth is that their experience is excellent.
XR technologies are a very good learning system because they not only see it in a very real, interactive, and dynamic way, but it also allows them to carry out self-assessment systems, and that is very important for a student, without anyone pressing you, you can evaluate the knowledge you have acquired when you have experimented with these types of tools that are very valuable from a medical point of view.
We, in teaching, have always used those resources or means we had at our disposal. For example, anatomists have always used the blackboard to teach anatomy based on colored chalk drawings. Then we had the transparencies, the slides, and the computers. However, now these Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality systems are emerging. It is another way to learn anatomy and other related sciences.
Q: How do you see the future of XR technologies?
The future is optimistic. It would be fascinating for the administrations to bet a little more in that direction, in the economic issue above all, because, without a doubt, this will favor medical training in all aspects. It would be a much more dynamic and interactive training for the user, the medical student, or the resident.
In this context, it is essential to highlight that more and more clinical simulations are emerging. We have already done some; we have cardiac auscultation simulators, which are very important so that a student or a resident can practice and learn what these heart sounds are like before practicing them on the patient. But on the other hand, there are also simulations of surgical approaches in which all the processes are highly protocolized; we can emulate an infiltration in a joint, etc.
All of them are techniques that give a lot of play in medical training.