Virtual reality in endoscopy: new technologies for patient care

Two patients underwent a biliopancreatic endoscopy procedure at ISMETT on the same day using frontier technologies. In the first case, using augmented reality allowed to create a 3D reproduction of the patient’s sick organ; in the second procedure, thanks to immersive reality physicians participated from three different rooms, two in Palermo and one in Verona. New technology was applied to endoscopy thanks to the collaboration between physicians and the engineers of Olympus.

In the first case, a patient suffering from a neoplasm, an augmented reality model was used, a form of mixed virtual reality in which the environment is real but a virtual element is inserted in it. In the case of the patient treated at ISMETT, a three-dimensional reproduction of his anatomical model was made using CT scans – an actual avatar of the patient’s disease – with which the physician was able to interact to study the case in detail and plan the procedure with accuracy, sharing it with two other physicians by remote. “Today augmented reality,” said Dr. Ilaria Tarantino, endoscopist and expert in biliopancreatic endoscopy at ISMETT, “is a great tool for us to share clinical cases, and also for training and tutoring less experienced colleagues, while facilitating a correct and clear communication between doctors and patients.”

After sharing the case, telemedicine was applied to digestive endoscopy using immersive reality to treat two patients suffering from neoplastic stenosis of the biliary tract and post-liver transplant biliary anastomotic stenosis.

Immersive reality is a form of virtual reality in which the user is teleported into a real but distant environment. Wearing special visors, the two physicians “immersed themselves” from a remote location into the endoscopy room where Dr. Tarantino performed the interventional echoendoscopy and the endoscopic retrograde cholangiography, interacting with the team and moving around the room as if they were there. “The methodologies used at our center,” explained Dr. Mario Traina, director of the ISMETT Endoscopy Service, “are the basis of the telemedicine of the future. Soon this technology will enable us to operate patients in other hospitals without leaving our center. This possibility opens up unique scenarios, especially in terms of training and collaboration between experts.”

The procedure was conducted between Palermo and Verona with physicians in three different rooms. Dr. Tarantino was in the endoscopy room of ISMETT, Dr. Traina and Dr. Armando Gabrielli of the Pancreatic Diagnostic Endoscopy Unit of Verona University Hospital were connected, with their visors, from Palermo and Verona.