VR utilized by researchers at the University of Washington to guide catheters through blood vessels

April 5, 2019 – New research presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting has shown that immersive virtual reality may enable interventional radiologists to improve treatments using real-time 3D images from inside a patient’s blood vessels, and could provide faster, more efficient treatment, with greater precision and with less radiation exposure to both patient and physician.

“Virtual reality will change how we look at a patient’s anatomy during treatment,” said Wayne Monsky, MD, PhD, Professor of Radiology at the University of Washington and lead author of the study. “This technology will allow physicians to travel inside a patient’s body instead of relying solely on 2D, black and white images.”

The purpose of the study was to demonstrate the feasibility of using a catheter with electromagnetic sensors projected onto a VR headset to see and steer the catheter through the anatomy to certain blood vessels.

Using a CT angiography scan, researchers created a 3D printed model and a holographic image of blood vessels in a patient’s abdomen and pelvis. Researchers guided catheters through the 3D printed model while a tracking system showed the image from the catheter through a VR headset. They compared the time taken to steer the catheter from the entry point of the femoral artery to three different targeted vessels versus the time the process took using conventional fluoroscopic guidance, as well as time taken in similar real-life clinical angiographic procedures.

In 18 simulated procedures, researchers found the mean time to reach the three targeted vessels using VR was much lower than in fluoroscopy, the standard practice using an x-ray image. In the first vessel, VR took 17.6 seconds versus 70.3 seconds using the standard practice on the model and 171.2 seconds in the real-life procedure.

The VR software was developed through a University of Washington business incubator that supported development of Pyrus Medical, of which Dr. Monsky serves as the chief medical officer.

Image credit: Society of Interventional Radiology