Doctors have long been confronted with the problem of identifying the precise location of lymph nodes affected by cancer. Researchers at Fraunhofer IGD in Darmstadt are now presenting a technology which assists doctors in locating such nodes during operations.
(Darmstadt) Despite recent advances in medicine, many operations are still very difficult to perform and entail risks. Doctors need to demonstrate great skill in the operating room since they are limited to estimating the exact location of organs, blood vessels and diseased tissue during surgical intervention. Together with partners, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD in Darmstadt have now come up with a technology which helps guide doctors during operations.
Assisted by augmented reality (AR) during operations
The researchers have developed an innovative augmented reality system for lymph node removal from cancer patients as part of their 3D-ARILE project, funded by the ZIM program, the German central innovation program for SMEs. “Augmented reality assists doctors by providing visual markings during operations. AR glasses overlay the position of the lymph node as a virtual mark,” explains Dr. Stefan Wesarg, Head of Competence Center „Visual Healthcare Technologies“ at Fraunhofer IGD in Darmstadt. “The technology helps to guide the doctor, indicating where they need to make an incision and ensuring they have excised everything that they need to.” Before operating, doctors inject an infrared dye into the patient. This dye then accumulates in the affected nymph node, making it visible and ready for removal. The node is then captured by the infrared camera and reconstructed in 3D. Fraunhofer IGD scientists provided the software required to generate the 3D image.
Advantages for patients
This new system not only helps doctors, but also offers advantages for patients. Indocyanine green (ICG) dye is now used instead of the radioactive detector substance administered previously. Less harmful to the human body, this dye also presents a good alternative when used in combination with an infrared camera and AR glasses. It enables doctors to mark affected lymph nodes and remove them completely.
Fraunhofer IGD is working on the 3D-ARILE project in cooperation with Trivisio Prototyping GmbH and the Clinic for Dermatology at Essen University Hospital.
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AR-System for lymph node extirpation