Incremed is putting the AR in healthcare

Incremed is putting the AR in healthcare

Augmented reality solutions have the potential to transform the delivery of medical procedures

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Building on the skills of its interdisciplinary, Zurich-based team specialised in medical augmented reality (AR) software development, and its collaborations with international medical staff and the medical technology (medtech) industry, Incremed produces technological products that are based on real clinical needs. 

AR is a buzzword nowadays. Briefly explained, it refers to technology that overlays virtual objects or information onto the real world. This information is projected into the user’s field of vision with the aid of an AR headset or tablet. Incremed is at the forefront of innovation and is helping to shape the future of AR in medtech. 

Incremed’s current field of activity is vast. Our products range from holographic imaging screens to applications for augmented screw navigation, object recognition-based ­monitoring systems, and holographic interactive manuals. 

In addition to delivering customised software projects for industry partners, we manufacture our own products. Thanks to our collaboration with Balgrist University Hospital in Zurich, we can develop, test and certify applications that solve the challenges that doctors face.  

For instance, we supported the first holographically assisted spinal fusion worldwide, performed by Professor Mazda Farshad at Balgrist University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland in December 2020. The goal of the surgery is to set screws in neighbouring vertebrae, in order to connect and stabilise them with a metal rod. The 3D CT scans of the patient’s vertebra and corresponding screw trajectories are projected onto the transparent screen of the Microsoft HoloLens and into the surgeon’s field of vision. We use visual trackers on surgical instruments to display deviations from target trajectories in millimetres and degrees. The surgeon then detects the screwhead positions and generates a holographic template rod, which is used to shape a customised metal rod accordingly. 

This surgery is a clear example of the ways in which AR and artificial intelligence can support and complement human skills and expertise.  

When it opened its new Microsoft Technology Center at The Circle in Zurich Airport, Microsoft placed Incremed’s SonoEyes product on permanent display amongst some of the most innovative technologies developed for, or with the help of, Microsoft hardware.  

The SonoEyes solution can be used to transform the ultrasound experience, both for the practitioner and the patient. The application of ultrasound technology has grown in recent years. Not only do the low doses of radiation classify it as a popular alternative imaging technique to X-rays, CT and MRI scans, but it is also widely used to perform ultrasound interventions on the ageing population.  

However, learning to read an ultrasound image requires significant training, and it is challenging to navigate the machine’s buttons and its probe and orientate oneself anatomically. During interventions in crammed operating rooms, it can be difficult for a healthcare worker to handle the ultrasound probe, whilst keeping the patient and ultrasound screen in sight. When biopsy needles are added to this equation, the task becomes even more demanding. 

SonoEyes is a CE-certified application for use with Microsoft HoloLens and in European hospitals. The holographic screen can be positioned anywhere in the room by voice commands or gestures. When connected to an imaging device, SonoEyes enables medical professional to perform punctures, infiltrations and biopsies in a more ergonomic and space-saving way. Users can also record the HoloLens’ field of vision, including holograms, for training or ­presentation purposes. 

Dr René Lüthi of the Olten Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland has become a pioneer among his colleagues for his innovative use of SonoEyes. He has transformed the way that he treats ­coronary artery disease and how he carries out complex, non-invasive vein measurements. With the holographic screen comfortably in front of him at all times, he is less constricted than when using a bulky ultrasound machine. 

An increasing number of ­radiologists and anaesthesiologists are following Lüthi’s lead, using SonoEyes to fit catheters, carry out joint punctures or perform biopsies. In ­gastroenterology – a branch of medicine which focuses on the digestive system – SonoEyes is used for ultrasound-guided liver tumour ablations and in combination with endoscopes.  

As SonoEyes can be used with any machine that provides a video output, the possibilities are endless and new use cases are discovered continuously. 

Till Bay is the founder and CEO of Incremed

This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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