Health IT

FDA clearance for augmented reality device lets surgeons see each critical step before they make it

It’s always interesting to see how other industries affect healthcare. Although the hospitality industry has been exerting a certain influence on digital health applications, the airline industry has also played a role. Medical device startup, Surgical Theater, was inspired by flight simulators to develop its augmented reality imaging devices to help physicians prep for surgery. The goal is to improve clinical outcomes in complex procedures.

Its Surgical Navigation Advanced Platform (or SNAP) has received FDA clearance, according to a company statement. It gives surgeon’s guidance, based on the patient’s CT or MRI scan, to figure out the safest and most efficient approach to remove brain tumors and do vascular surgery and analyze each critical step before they make it.

The augmented reality component gives surgeons the ability to simulate and plan for potential scenarios and adds to their clinical insight. It allows surgeons to rotate an image or make it semi-transparent to get a perspective behind arteries and other structures.


The device is being added as an integrated surgery device at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. Dr. Warren R. Selman, chairman of the neurological surgery department, compared using the device to watching a football game.

“…multiple cameras are located around the arena and an editor can freeze the image, rotate, zoom in, zoom out and see things that he could not otherwise see. In my recent surgeries, I was able to pause the navigation scene during the surgery to rotate the image and to verify that I removed the entire tumor and to make sure that I was within a safe distance from a vital artery while removing the tumor. “

SNAP follows the development of Surgical Theater’s first pre-surgery simulation device — Surgical Rehearsal Platform. It’s also developing a platform for spine surgeries.

Surgical simulators have become increasingly sophisticated tools, produced by software developers such as Simbionix and Immersive Touch. The technology is also helping train future surgeons by creating a more effective way to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of students’ technique so they can master different types of operations. It’s also helped reduce the reliance on animals for surgery practice.

The device is designed to prevent some of the medical errors that contribute to the $1.3 billion in medical liability settlements, according to one study.

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