Publications total: 16
  Feb 26th,2016

3D / Holographic Imaging In Keyhole Surgery - The Next Great Market Opportunity?


3D holographic imaging technology is perhaps one of the most exciting technological inventions of the 21st century and today people are realizing its applicability in a whole range of domain starting from entertainment to medical surgery. Floating 3D holographic images became really popular after the release of the Hollywood movie Avatar and it is anticipated that by the year 2018 business in the 3D imaging market will easily cross $90 billion (Gu and Li, 2015). The application of the technology in medical sector for the purpose of education, diagnosis and surgery is drawing lot of interest in the recent years and a number of players are already working towards making it a reality in the very near future. Medical images, as we know are flat and their rendition in 3D floating images will massively revolutionize the way doctors perform intricate and complicated surgeries in the operating room. At the moment, doctors rely on 2D flat images from CT and MRI scan and the process of creating 3D visualizations from them is time consuming and laborious. Furthermore there are accuracy issues with these kinds of 3D visualizations and as a result taking diagnostic and treatment decisions based on them is tricky. 3D holographic floating images can address these accuracy concerns and help surgeons better plan their surgical procedures for optimal treatment outcomes. Doctors can zoom into the 3D images of the organs and even manipulate them according to their requirements to reach out to those parts that are otherwise not very clear in a 2D CT or MRI scan. While systems such as VividE9 from General Electric create 3D images from 2D scans, the new technology can actually create life-like virtual entities in the 3D space (Patel, 2015). An US-based company called EchoPixel recently released a product called True3D Viewer for diagnostics and surgery planning that received clearance from FDA. True3D viewer creates 3D stereoscopic structures of human body that can be manipulated easily by surgeons. They can cut sections in the virtual 3D structure of the body in every angle and view them in a manner that is very similar to the real surgery in the operating table. This can greatly help the surgeons in performing the entire surgery in virtual space, plan the stages and ensure the best possible outcome (Patel, 2015). 3D holograms can also help doctors identify issues in critical organs such as brain and heart that are very mild in nature and difficult to detect in MRI or CT scans. The technology can also be extremely useful in planning and conducting keyhole surgeries. Keyhole surgical procedures are becoming very common these days because they give minimum stress to the patients. Also known as minimal invasive surgery, the procedure involves making small incisions in the body through which instruments are inserted. Since the incisions are small compared to a full scale open surgery the recovery periods are smaller, scarring on the body is minimal and the chances of postoperative complications are considerably less. Where these surgeries are carried out in the abdominal area the procedure is called laparoscopic surgery and when carried out in the thoracic area it is called thoracoscopic surgery (Melbourne Gastro Oesophagus, 2016). 3D holographic technology has the potential to revolutionize the keyhole surgical procedure by presenting before the surgeon a highly detailed 3D virtual structure of the organ where surgery is to be performed. So in essence, the surgeon can actually see organ very clearly without an incision and plan the procedure very properly.

The benefits of 3D holograms for medical procedures:

Images obtained from MRI and CT scan have dramatically improved the way diagnosis is made and surgeries are performed. They throw a deep insight into an individual's anatomy without having to make any incision on the body. However when a surgeon views such a scan the 3D image is perceived in his or her brain. Utilities such as True3D by EchoPixel takes this effort away from the surgeon by offering them very realistic 3D holographic images so that they can concentrate only on the diagnostic and surgical aspects. Currently available tools such as Vivid E9 with XDclear also create 3D images but the 3D holographic images created by utilities such as True3D are not realistic but also highly interactive allowing manipulation in every possible plane. The promise of this technology in the field of keyhole surgery is enormous as realized during its testing at the University of California, San Francisco. During the test, virtual colonoscopy was performed using the technology and the 3D images that were obtained were extremely detailed and interactive. The virtual images of the colon floating in the 3D space could be zoomed in and out, rotated and sliced from all angles, allowing surgeons to get as much insight as they wanted without having to make an incision on the body (Handwerk, 2015).

Another utility that is looking for commercial release in the very near future is called ZScape. Developed by a company Zebra Imaging, it can generate highly detailed 3D holograms of cadavers for educational purpose in medical schools. Medical students can actually walk into the interior of a virtual human body and shift through tiniest layers of every organ system. The images can be rotated and dissected allowing students to gain knowledge and surgical skills without having to wait for real cadavers that are in short supply (Patel, 2015). A major achievement in the field of 3D holograms and keyhole surgery was the remote 3D keyhole surgery that was carried out at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in 2010. The hospital had already implemented sophisticated 3D endoscopic cameras for the benefit of the surgeons carrying out keyhole surgeries so that they have a clearer view of the inside before putting their instruments inside the body through the incisions. During the 3D surgical procedure, the operating surgeon used an utility developed by a US-based firm called Solid-Look and the images were also transmitted to an ancillary room through fibre optic cables where a team was viewing the interactive 3D rendition using special polarising glasses (Harris, 2010).

The benefits of 3D holographic imaging technology is not just limited to keyhole surgery but other complex surgical procedures as well such as open heart surgery. A company called RealView Imaging based in Israel have developed a technology that will allow heart surgeons to create a life-like and highly detailed view of the organ in 3D space with the option of complex manipulations. Surgeons will be able to rotate and slice open the virtual organ to reach to the deeper areas and pinpoint the smallest abnormalities. The utility will greatly help doctors plan their incisions while navigating through deep-seated complex tissues and blood vessels (Patel, 2015). Electronic giants such as Sony have also joined the bandwagon after realizing the potential of 3D hologram technology in keyhole surgery. They have developed a 3D helmet system that utilizes 2 OLED displays to create a HD 3D image of the anatomy inside the human body. An added advantage of the system is that the operating surgeon will not have to keep looking at the 3D image and the surgical field back and forth but can concentrate only on the procedure because the images are fed directly into the surgeon's eyes (Sorokanich, 2013).


There is no doubt in the fact that a life-like 3D holographic preview of an organ or an organ system that can also be manipulated will help doctors in getting a better scale of the procedure they are undertaking. Doctors manipulating a 3D holographic floating image of an organ in the air, rotating it and slicing it to get a deeper insight almost appears straight out of a science fiction but in reality, working prototypes are already available to us. The benefits that the technology can offer in procedures such as keyhole surgery is enormous. This is also the era of patient empowerment in the healthcare sector where care receivers demands more transparency with regards to the procedures that the doctor is going to perform on them. 3D holographic imaging can serve as a very powerful technology in this regard, presenting before the patients a very realistic view of the surgical procedures that they are going to receive in the operating theatre. Given the huge potential of the technology in medical procedures, it is to expected that in the future surgery will be performed this way.


Gu, M. and Li, X. (2015). No more science fiction: 3D holographic images . [online] The Conversation.
Available at:

Handwerk, B. (2015). Medical Holograms Are Now Part of the Surgeon's Toolkit . [online] Smithsonian.
Available at:

Harris, S. (2010). UK hospital performs keyhole surgery using 3D imagery . [online] The Engineer.
Available at:

Melbourne Gastro Oesophagus, (2016). Keyhole Surgery - Melbourne Gastro Oesophagus . [online]
Available at:

Patel, N. (2015). Holograms Will Let Doctors See 3-D Views of Our Insides . [online] WIRED.
Available at:

Sorokanich, R. (2013). 3D Helmet for Surgeons Turns Complex Surgery Into Call of Duty . [online] Gizmodo.
Available at:

We use cookies to improve our services. If you continue browsing, you accept their use. More information