A new head-mounted display system lets anesthesiologists keep an eye on critical monitoring data during surgery—without having to turn their attention away from the patient, reports a study in the April issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society.
"Fighter pilots in close combat cannot afford to take their eyes off of the enemy to see their flight instruments. Instead, combat planes are equipped with a 'heads-up display' that projects the instrument readings into the pilot's line of sight," says Dr. Steven L. Shafer of Columbia University, Editor-in-Chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia. "In just the same way, anesthesiologists cannot afford to look away from a critically ill patient to the bank of monitors several feet behind them."
An Australian team of anesthesiologists, headed by David Liu, has developed a head-mounted display that projects data from patient monitors into the anesthesiologist's line of vision. The data appear as a monochrome red image on a see-through monocle over the anesthesiologist's right eye.
The system allows the anesthesiologist to "stay engaged" with a patient who requires undivided attention, without having to look away at the monitors displaying the patient's physiological information. The headset is wirelessly connected to the patient monitors, freeing the anesthesiologist to move about the operating room. The system uses the NOMAD expert technician system from Microvision Inc.
Six anesthesiologists tested the head-mounted display during actual operations in 36 patients. Although the study was small, the results were positive. When the patient's physiological data were projected into their field of vision, the anesthesiologists spent more time looking at their patients and less time looking toward the monitoring equipment. The system's major limitation was the need for a backpack, which limited mobility somewhat.
With further technological development, the head-mounted display system may help anesthesiologists to solve a difficult problem: how to maintain their focus on caring for the patient during surgery, while at the same time keeping track of crucial physiological data like heart rate, oxygenation, and blood pressure.
"Head-mounted displays have been tested by anesthesiologists for the past decade, but poor resolution rendered them unsuitable for clinical use," says Dr. Shafer. "Liu and colleagues have adopted a new generation of imaging technology to the high-bandwidth requirements of the operating room anesthesiologist."
"Once miniaturization has eliminated the backpack, these devices will likely see widespread use—particularly in the care of critically ill patients undergoing complex procedures," Dr. Shafer says.
Find the full study, "Monitoring with Head-Mounted Displays in General Anesthesia: A Clinical Evaluation in the Operating Room," in Anesthesia & Analgesia.