The OR of the future: 6 key components

A report in The Wall Street Journal outlines how ORs will change in the coming years based on conversations with surgeons, hospital leaders and other experts in the field.

Here are six key concepts:

1. Artificial intelligence and computer-assisted decision-making will become commonplace. Computers can analyze data collected during surgery and help anticipate potential issues and predict complications that would lead to readmissions.

2. Sensors, cameras and voice recordings will collect information about how surgeons perform procedures including how they move their hands to make incisions, communicate with their teams and use surgical instruments. The surgeons can use that data to make improvements. New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health is using the technology already to determine surgeon qualifications for some procedures. In the future, with enough data, AI-enabled technology could notify doctors of an accidental sterile field breach or other potential hazards.

3. ORs that aren’t already equipped with screens for remote communication and telemedicine will be. Experts can call in to provide guidance to rural hospitals that may not have the expertise for complex procedures, and surgeons may be able to use the technology to remotely operate in the future, according to the report.

4. Autonomous robots in the OR aren’t in the near future, but devices to perform surgical tasks with some human oversight are being developed. Intel is working with researchers in Singapore on a robot that could differentiate between healthy tissue and tumors, allowing it to make surgical incisions. There are also robots in development to suture incisions and autonomously navigate catheter insertion for heart procedures.

5. Augmented reality has been pioneered in spine and heart procedures. Surgeons at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins and Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center have used augmented reality headsets for real-time spinal anatomy projection, allowing for 3D visualization of spinal anatomy during surgery. The technology from Augmedics is designed to make it appear that the surgeon has X-ray vision and can navigate instruments and implants while looking directly at the patient instead of a screen. Surgeons at Cleveland Clinic are using Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets to prepare for surgery and it has been used in aortic, face transplant and cancer procedures.

6. The lighting will be completely different. ORs may include overhead lights with cameras and machine-vision algorithms that would change the direction and intensity of the light to mitigate glare and shadows during surgery, according to the report. Surgeons could control light settings through voice recognition technology. The lighting structure could also sanitize the OR overnight with ultraviolet light.

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