Video game technology aids beating-heart surgery

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A team of cardiac surgeons in the U.S. have found another use for stereoscopic glasses that are typically used for video gaming.

In a recent study, the three-dimensional glasses have been used in a successful operation on pigs with a common form of congenital heart disease.

By providing surgeons with real-time images with some indication of depth, the technology enables heart surgery to be performed while the heart is still beating, avoiding the need to open the chest, stop the heart and put patients on cardiopulmonary bypass.

Previously, researchers have studied a three-dimensional ultrasound imaging system that was found to provide insufficient indication of depth.

Likening the ultrasound imaging system to watching a baseball game on television, researchers concluded that while the system allowed surgeons to follow the game, it would be difficult for viewers to intercept a ball in mid-flight.

The newly-tested stereoscopic glasses enable depth perception by splitting computer images in two, and cocking them at slightly different angles to provide surgeons with ultrasound images of the beating heart as a hologram.

"You definitely have depth perception," said Nikolay Vasilyev, MD, of the Children's Hospital Boston’s department of cardiac surgery, who performed beating-heart operations on pigs for the study.

"You feel like you're inside the heart chamber,” he said.

The real-time stereoscopic visualization system was designed to handle and render 30 MB of data every second on an nVidia GeForce FX 7800 graphics card.

Researchers expect that clinical trials of beating-heart surgery with the patching system could begin in children with ASDs this year.

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