Stanford study finds VR imaging boosts radiologists' confidence

By Dave Muoio
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A team of researchers from Stanford University are the latest to demonstrate how virtual reality can give specialists a better look into the bodies of their patients.

The latest implementation, at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s annual meeting, suggests that allowing specialists to view and manipulate images of splenic artery aneurysms (SAAs) in a 3D space can improve their confidence going into a procedure more than image review using standard volume-rendering software.

"Treating splenic artery aneurysms can be very difficult because of their intricate nature and anatomic variations from patient to patient," Dr. Zlatko Devcic, a fellow of interventional radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine and an author of the study, said in a statement. "This new platform allows you to view a patient's arterial anatomy in a three-dimensional image, as if it is right in front of you, which may help interventional radiologists more quickly and thoroughly plan for the equipment and tools they'll need for a successful outcome.”

To compare standard images to those recreated in VR, Devcic and colleagues collected pre-procedural computed tomographic angiography (CTA ) images of 17 SAAs in 14 different patients. After constructing images through both methods, three radiologists independently evaluated the number of inflow and outflow arteries using the two images, with procedural angiographic images of the 17 SAAs serving as the gold standard. Along with general accuracy, the team had these experts rate how confident they were in their identification of all inflow and outflow arteries, with higher scores on a one-to-four scale indicating an improvement in the operator’s confidence.

The 17 SAAs were associated with 17 inflow and 22 outflow arteries for the specialists to identify. Overall sensitivity, accuracy, and positive predictive values between the two methods was similar, although not to the point of statistical significance (p = .14), with the standard volume-rendering software demonstrating improved accuracy and positive predictive values. However, operators reported that they were much more confident with the ability to view and manipulate the images using VR, with 93 percent of participant responses receiving a score of three or better.

"Pre-operative planning is possibly the most important step towards successfully treating a patient, so the value of VR cannot be understated," Devcic said. "This technology gives us a totally different way to look at that structure and safely plan our approach to patient care.”

VR and AR have increasingly found their way into the operating room. For instance, last week Texas surgeons were the first in the country to conduct a minimally invasive sinus procedure with the help of AR. In late January, a case study from British surgeons detailed a strategy where CT scan images could be projected onto patients’ legs using Microsoft HoloLens.

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