Adapted military technology helps with minimally invasive procedures

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Visual equipment developed for military pilots is being adapted by a San Diego company to help surgeons perform more precise and less invasive procedures, according to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune.

The technology was originally developed to help fighter pilots immerse themselves in air combat. Like the pilots, surgeons using the system put on a pair of sophisticated goggles to become immersed in the patient. The doctor sees 3D video of the operation from within the patient's body. The image is projected to the headset in visual stereo by two tiny cameras inserted through tiny incisions into the patient. A simple voice command by the surgeon can prompt a second picture to be shown simultaneously on the screen, giving the doctor additional perspective by referring to an ultrasound, x-ray or CT scan, said Julio Pow-Sang, MD, a surgeon at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Fla.

While the development of robotics for surgery have been underway for some time and systems are available, they cost over $1 million, not including the maintenance and costly disposable parts for each procedure. The 3-DI Digital Vision System developed by Viking Systems pays for itself after 200 prostatectomies, compared with at least 600 procedures for a robotic system. The Viking system costs $1,200 to $1,800, depending on the amount of informatics attachments and up to three headsets can be attached to each system.