A group of researchers has developed and tested an augmented reality system that could lead to more precise interventional cancer treatments.

An article describing the system has been published in the European Radiology Experimental journal.

Dr Marco Solbiati and his colleagues conducted the research in Italy at a technology company called R.A.W. They used the augmented reality during an operation that required a needle to accurately target a lesion on the liver. They found that augmented reality was able to assist needle guidance with very high accuracy.

The system has been designed to simultaneously visualise 3D anatomical structures, tumour targets and interventional devices superimposed on the patient’s body. The researchers say the technology has the potential to guide interventions without the need for further real-time imaging during the procedure and can, therefore, avoid the need for radiation exposure.

The evaluation of the augmented reality system, based upon a tablet, a needle handle and a set of markers, was performed in three experimental models. Initially, a male anthropomorphic trunk phantom with five polyvinyl chloride bars was used to study the accuracy of the system without respiratory motion or tissue compression.

Small metallic targets were also placed in a pig model to evaluate how respiration affects the system accuracy. Finally, the system’s performance on a cadaver affected by liver metastasis was tested.

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In all experimental settings, extremely high targeting accuracy was achieved.

The results from these experiments suggest the technology could potentially be used in clinical practice in the future and the researchers believe further assessment of their augmented reality system in clinical scenarios is warranted.