VR application in imaging-guided medical operation

Imaging-guided medical operation refers to a surgical procedure performed with the assistance of various imaging techniques, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound, to guide the surgeon during the operation. In the context of lung tumor ablations, imaging guidance is particularly crucial for precise targeting and monitoring of the procedure.

One example of an imaging-guided medical operation for lung tumor ablation is radiofrequency ablation (RFA). RFA is a minimally invasive procedure used to destroy tumors by using heat generated from high-frequency electrical currents. Here's an overview of how imaging guidance is utilized during the procedure:

Preoperative Imaging: Prior to the procedure, the patient undergoes diagnostic imaging, typically CT or MRI, to identify the location, size, and characteristics of the lung tumor.

Planning: The medical team uses the preoperative imaging data to plan the RFA procedure. This involves determining the optimal needle placement and trajectory to reach the tumor while avoiding critical structures such as blood vessels or nearby organs.

Needle Placement: During the procedure, the patient is placed under conscious sedation or general anesthesia. Under the guidance of real-time imaging, such as CT fluoroscopy, a radiologist or interventional radiologist inserts a thin needle through the skin and advances it into the lung tumor. The needle is precisely positioned to ensure maximum tumor coverage.

Electrode Deployment: Once the needle is correctly positioned, a specially designed electrode is inserted through the needle into the tumor. The electrode is equipped with multiple prongs or tines that deploy to create a larger ablation zone.

Ablation: Once the electrode is in place, electrical currents are passed through it, generating heat that destroys the tumor cells. The temperature is monitored using real-time imaging to ensure that the desired treatment area is adequately ablated while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

Postoperative Imaging: After completing the ablation, the medical team may perform post-procedure imaging, such as a CT scan, to evaluate the treatment's effectiveness, assess any complications, and ensure complete tumor eradication.

To make sure the needle doesn't invade any other tissue, the doctor first take CT scans and build a 3D model of the lung. Than with x, y, z plane view showing, the doctor inserts the needle and makes sure that nothing else is touched in every angle.

During my visit to Rhode Island Hospital in my Medical Imaging Analysis class, I asked one of the expert whether it'd be easier to perform this operation in VR space. He told me that they actually experimented one last summer with Oculus Rift.

They basically try to do the same planning in the VR space.

lung plan vr.mp4

Because of privacy issue, I cannot take photos or provide other details of the device and the software developed, except a demo video is recorded above.

I also asked the doctor why these 3D model techniques are not widely used in the planning, they gave me two reasons:

1. The 3D model in the VR space is interpolated from CT scans of three direction, since the current software does not offer 2D view of x, y, z plane, they will lose the ground truth image in the VR space.

2. For the radiologists, it's much easier & intuitive to operate while looking at the scans from x, y, z view. This is not what most of the people realized.