Doctors use virtual reality imaging to treat blocked coronary artery

The combination of Google Glass and a custom-built mobile application allowed doctors to complete an often difficult surgical procedure.

Stephen Feller
The three-dimensional imaging system allowed doctors to more easily see the artery they were working to clear during surgery. Photo by Morganka/Shutterstock
The three-dimensional imaging system allowed doctors to more easily see the artery they were working to clear during surgery. Photo by Morganka/Shutterstock

WARSAW, Poland, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Doctors in Poland used a virtual reality system combining a custom mobile application and Google Glass to clear a blocked coronary artery, one of the first uses of the technology to assist with surgery.

The imaging system was used with a patient who had chronic total occlusion, a complete blockage of the artery, which doctors said is difficult to clear using standard catheter-based percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI.


The system provides three-dimensional reconstructions of the artery and includes a hands-free voice recognition system allowing for zoom and changes of the images. The head-mounted display system allows doctors to capture images and video while also interacting with the environment around them.

In patients with chronic total occlusion, the standard procedure is not always successful, at least partially because of difficulty visualizing the blockage with conventional coronary tomography angiography, or CTA, imaging.

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"This case demonstrates the novel application of wearable devices for display of CTA data sets in the catheterization laboratory that can be used for better planning and guidance of interventional procedures, and provides proof of concept that wearable devices can improve operator comfort and procedure efficiency in interventional cardiology," Dr. Maksymilian Opolski, of the Department of Interventional Cardiology and Angiology at the Institute of Cardiology in Warsaw, said in a press release.


Cardiologists working with a 49-year-old male patient used the device during surgery, receiving three-dimensional reconstructions of the artery allowing them to verify the direction of the guide wire to clear the blockage and implant two drug-releasing stents.

In the picture marked A, a cardiologist views computed tomography angiography images in the upper right visual field on Google Glass during a chronic total occlusion recanalization attempt. In photos B and C, three-dimensional reconstructions projected directly onto the Google Glass screen reveal the exact trajectory of the distal right coronary artery. Photo by the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

"Mobile technology is easily accessible and offers an incremental opportunity to expand the existing open platform for mobile applications, which might in turn overcome the economic and capacity limitations of advanced angiography systems with dedicated monitors for projection of CTA data sets," Opolski said.

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The study is published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

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