Capitalizing on the Growth of Virtual and Augmented Reality in Healthcare

An aortic aneurysm is a potentially fatal disease that is caused by a weakening of the walls of the aorta. It was, for example, the cause of death for the famed physicist Albert Einstein. Currently, a standard minimally invasive treatment of this disease involves the placement of a stent-graft – inserted via catheter – inside the aneurysm. This technique uses X-ray fluoroscopy to guide the stent-graft to the target area in the aorta, which exposes both the patient and caregivers to dangerous ionizing radiation.

Centerline Biomedical, Inc. aims to address these concerns with its innovative technologies that combine electromagnetic tracking with advanced computer graphics (see Fig. 1) to provide a safer procedure, that also greatly enhances the visualization of the surgical procedure, enabling the physician to safely perform surgeries formerly thought to be infeasible.

Now, Centerline is again on the vanguard of new technologies. With the emerging technologies of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) in healthcare – a market that is expected to reach $5 billion in 2023 – it is now possible to navigate through the body’s blood vessels using computer generated images viewed through special goggles, which provides enhanced in situ localization of endovascular tools (see Fig. 2). This innovation gives surgeons precise visualization never before available.

Centerline, working closely with the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, has recently been awarded an NIH / STTR phase I grant to harness the HoloLens® AR technology for aortic aneurysm repair surgery. This technology advances the state of the art in medical care and has the potential to expand the feasibility of treatment, reaching patients with complicated aortic curvatures who otherwise would not be considered a candidate for this minimally invasive surgery.

Centerline is now actively completing the aims of this grant, soliciting strategic partnerships, and anticipates applying for a phase II grant to bring this novel innovation to market. Centerline also anticipates expanding this emerging technology to other surgical procedures, such as peripheral vascular interventions, head and neck vascular surgery, and many others.

Fig. 1
: 2D fluoroscopic display (left) compared to 3D virtual IOPS display (right)

: HoloLens augmented reality of an aortic aneurysm.