No scalpel required: U of A research allows medical images to be displayed on patient’s body

ProjectDR is an augmented reality system that allows medical images such as CT scans and MRI data to be displayed directly on a patient’s body

Doctors can put down scalpels and peek under patients’ skin with new University of Alberta technology that displays internal anatomy right on the body.

ProjectDR allows medical images like CT scans and MRI data to be displayed on the patient, researchers said in a Wednesday news release. The technology includes a motion-tracking system using infrared cameras and markers on the body, as well as a projector to display the images.

“We wanted to create a system that would show clinicians a patient’s internal anatomy within the context of the body,” said Ian Watts, a computing science graduate student and the developer of ProjectDR.

The difficulty of having the image track properly on a patient’s body as they shift and move has been overcome using custom software written by Watts that gets all of the components working together.

“There are lots of applications for this technology, including in teaching, physiotherapy, laparoscopic surgery and even surgical planning,” said Watts, who developed the technology with fellow graduate student Michael Feist.

Watts is now refining ProjectDR to improve its automatic calibration and to add components like depth sensors.

“Soon, we’ll deploy ProjectDR in an operating room in a surgical simulation laboratory to test the pros and cons in real-life surgical applications,” said Pierre Boulanger, professor in the Department of Computing Science.

Pilot studies are also underway to test the system for teaching chiropractic and physical therapy procedures.

ProjectDR in November was presented at the Virtual Reality Software and Technology Symposium in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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