Torso of Doctor, wearing stethoscope around neck

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital plans to take holograms into the operating theatre

One of the largest children’s hospitals in the UK plans to use Microsoft technology to help doctors work together and improve surgical procedures.

Alder Hey, which cares for more than 270,000 youngsters and their families a year, wants to introduce large-screen Surface Hubs in meeting rooms and HoloLens, the mixed-reality headset, in operating theatres.

Surgeons want to use HoloLens, which allows people to easily create 3D holograms and interact with them in the real world, so they can see up-to-date information on a patient while they are operating on them.

Surface Hub will allow medical professionals to collaborate and use one digital screen to share patient charts, tests and medical images that are traditionally written on paper and located in several places around the hospital.

“Imaging a patient’s heart from the inside and from the outside is absolutely essential,” said Rafael Guerrero, a Cardiac Surgeon at Alder Hey. “I have to visualize that 3D view in my head in order to do this operation. You can display those images on a screen in the operating theatre sometimes, but it’s not easily accessible; and I can’t leave in the middle of an operation to go get more information about my patient. In many cases, the heart has already stopped in order for us to operate.

“Microsoft HoloLens and mixed reality will, in the future, enable me to have a patient’s scans in front of me while I’m doing the operation. If I can use technology to obtain that information, to see those images in front of me, that helps me tremendously and improves the outcome for my patient.”

Before performing a heart operation, for example, Alder Hey assembles a team of clinicians, surgeons, doctors and nurses to review a patient’s ultrasounds, CT scans and angiograms to determine the best course of treatment. Once the patient enters the theatre, the surgeon uses that information to make the operation a success. Guerrero said he then can use HoloLens to view medical images and notes in real-time without using his hands.

The hospital, in Liverpool, is working with Microsoft partner Black Marble to develop an app and introduce the technology.

Everything you need to know about HoloLens

“HoloLens has powerful visualization capabilities. Coupled with the Surface Hub, which is excellent for transforming collaborative experiences, we saw a range of opportunities for creating engaging user experiences,” said Robert Hogg, Chief Executive of Black Marble. “The common factor for both these devices is that they are delivered on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which enabled us to write the application once, and still take advantage of the best features of both devices.”

Black Marble’s app utilizes InkCanvas and InkToolbar so multiple people can write notes on the Surface Hub at once. These are then time-stamped and show the name of the author, and can be uploaded to HoloLens during a later operation

For now, Black Marble has stored and secured sample data in Azure Blob Storage. However, it hopes to integrate the app into Alder Hey’s existing data systems so information can be securely viewed and updated.

“It’s incredibly important that we embrace technology to get our best people out there and do extraordinary things,” said Iain Hennessey, Clinical Director of Innovation at Alder Hey. “At the end of the day, the health of children is more important than anything else.”