AR applications in medical training

Medical education is one of the application fields of augmented reality. As mentioned in the use-case section, the head-mounted device HoloLens released by Microsoft can be used to visualize a fully virtual body and its parts in a room for studying anatomy. But there are approaches in the scientific world in this area as well.

In 2014, a study about the skills assessment in minimal invasive surgery with AR was conducted. A system consisting of a box-trainer, a camera and surgery tools equipped with sensors was developed by the scientists. Basic skills, hand-eye coordination and bimanual operation were tested in this survey. Therefore, experienced surgeons and novices in this field were compared. Differences between the two groups regarding smoothness and economy of motion were found. The authors highlighted the potential of the technology for medical training as a conclusion. [1]

The study of Kim, Chan, & Du did not deal with the potential of AR for surgical training, but for interaction with a radar screen. Also for this study, an AR system was developed. In addition, a training textbook for the same task was written. Two different groups of undergraduates trained either with the AR system or the textbook. During a practice session, the performance of the students was measured. Significant differences were found between the two groups. Students practicing with the augmented reality application were more aware of the situation than students training with the textbook. This indicates that AR can have a positive learning effect on trainees in the medical field. [2]

The above studies suggest that the potential of augmented reality in medical training is high. In 2016, Lahanas el al. made a survey of the educational opportunities of this technology. Thus, the authors looked for relevant articles and evaluated them. Up to August 215, they found twenty-seven relevant studies. The articles could be assigned to the following categories:

  • Laparoscopic surgical training
  • Neurosurgical procedures
  • Echocardiography

Even though face- and construct-validity was proven for most training methods, none of the applications was proven to have the ability to transfer information to the user. [3]

In conclusion, there are promising possibilities of applying AR to medical training. Possible areas of application in the medical education field are minimal invasive surgery, interaction with a radar screen or anatomy. It seems like AR applications have a positive learning effect. However, there is no evidence in literature that AR systems are able to transfer information to medical personnel.


[1] Lahanas, Loukas, Smailis, & Georgiou, 2015

[2] Kim, Chan, & Du, 2015

[3] Lahanas et al., 2015

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