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Introduction. Introducing mixed reality in neurosurgical practice

Giuseppe E. Umana, Camilo Molina, Anna Miserocchi, and Hani J. Marcus

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Mixed reality compared to the traditional ex cathedra format for neuroanatomy learning: the value of a three-dimensional virtual environment to better understand the real world

Abiram Sandralegar, Florian Bernard, Samuel Khatchatourov, Insa Janssen, Karl Schaller, Philippe Bijlenga, and Julien Haemmerli

OBJECTIVE

Neuroanatomy comprehension is a keystone of understanding intracranial surgeries. Traditionally taught to students during ex cathedra courses, neuroanatomy is described as complex. Mixed reality (MxR) opens new perspectives in the learning process. This study aims to compare MxR-based courses with traditional ex cathedra lectures for neuroanatomy education.

METHODS

Two lectures describing the neuroanatomy of the anterior circulation arteries ("Vascular Lecture" [VS]) and important white matter fiber tracts ("White Fibers Lecture" [WF]) were designed and delivered in ex cathedra and MxR-based formats with the same audio content. Ninety-one medical students were randomly assigned to group A (ex cathedra WF/MxR VS) or group B (MxR WF/ex cathedra VS). The MxR content was delivered via MxR goggles. Prior to each lecture, students took a 10-item multiple choice question (MCQ) pretest. After the lectures, students took a 20-item MCQ posttest (75% neuroanatomy, 25% clinical correlation).

RESULTS

The pretest scores showed no statistical difference between groups. Median posttest scores increased by 14.3% after using the MxR-based format compared to the ex cathedra format (16.00 [13.0, 18.0] vs 14.0 [11.0, 17.0], respectively, p < 0.01). Regarding the VS, students scored 21.7% better using the MxR format compared to the ex cathedra format (14.0 [12.0, 16.0] vs 11.5 [10.0, 14.0], p < 0.001). Concerning the WF, the median score using MxR was 18.0 (17.0, 19.0), and the median score using the ex cathedra format was 17.0 (16.0, 18.0; p < 0.01). Students showed high motivation to learn neuroanatomy in the future using MxR (74%) rather than ex cathedra format (25%; p < 0.001). Mild discomfort using the MxR goggles was reported by 48.3% of participants. Most participants (95.5%) preferred the MxR-based teaching.

CONCLUSIONS

Students acquired a better knowledge of the anatomy of the anterior circulation arteries and white fiber tracts using MxR-based teaching as compared to the standard ex cathedra format. The perception of lecture quality and learning motivation was better using MxR-based teaching despite some mild discomfort. The development of MxR-based solutions is promising to improve neuroanatomy education.

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Mixed reality for spine surgery: a step into the future with a human cadaveric accuracy study

Dirk Winkler, Fabian Kropla, Michel Busse, Svenja Jung, Sebastian Scholz, Erdem Güresir, Martin Gericke, Martin Vychopen, Johannes Wach, and Ronny Grunert

OBJECTIVE

Current application of mixed reality as a navigation aid in the field of spinal navigation points to the potential of this technology in spine surgery. Crucial factors for acceptance include intuitive workflow, system stability, reliability, and accuracy of the method. The authors therefore aimed to investigate the accuracy of the system in visualization of anatomical structures using mixed reality in the example of pedicles of the thoracic spine in a human cadaveric study. Potential difficulties and limitations are discussed.

METHODS

CT scans of a human cadaveric spinal column specimen were performed. After segmentation and import into the advanced HoloLens 2 software, the vertebrae were exposed. The vertebral arches were preserved on one side for a landmark-based surface registration, whereas pedicles were exposed on the other side in order to measure and evaluate deviation of the overlay holographs with regard to the exact anatomical structure. Accuracy was measured and statistically evaluated.

RESULTS

In this work it was demonstrated that the overlay of the virtual 3D model pedicles with the real anatomical structures with anatomical landmark registration was within an acceptable surgical accuracy with the mean value of 2.1 mm (maximum 3.8 mm, minimum 1.2 mm). The highest accuracy was registered at the medial and lateral pedicle wall, and the measurement results were best in the region of the middle thoracic spine.

CONCLUSIONS

The accuracy analysis for mixed reality (i.e., between the virtual and real anatomical situation of the thoracic spine) showed a very good agreement when focus was on the pedicles. This work is thus a rare proof of the precision of segmentation to the potential surgical area. The results encourage researchers to open up mixed reality technology in its development and application for spinal navigation.

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Mixed reality in neurosurgery: redefining the paradigm for arteriovenous malformation planning and navigation to improve patient outcomes

Edinson Najera, Gavin Lockard, Miguel Saez-Alegre, Keaton Piper, and Walter C. Jean

OBJECTIVE

Brain arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) present significant challenges in neurosurgery, requiring detailed planning and execution. In this study, the authors aimed to evaluate the efficacy of mixed reality (MxR), a synergistic application of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), in the surgical management of AVMs.

METHODS

A retrospective review was conducted on 10 patients who underwent AVM resection between 2021 and 2023. Preoperative planning used patient-specific 360° VR models, while intraoperative guidance used AR markers for targeted disconnection of arterial feeders. Data were analyzed for surgical duration, blood loss, and postoperative outcomes, stratified by Spetzler-Martin (SM) and supplemented Spetzler-Martin (Supp-SM) grades.

RESULTS

In 10 patients with cerebral AVMs, MxR significantly facilitated the identification of 21 arterial feeders, including challenging deep feeders. MxR-assisted surgeries demonstrated efficient identification and disconnection of arterial feeders, contributing to precise AVM resection. The mean surgical duration was approximately 5 hours 11 minutes, with a mean intraoperative blood loss of 507.5 ml. Statistically significant variations in surgical duration and blood loss were observed based on SM and supplemented Supp-SM grades. Two patients experienced worsened postoperative neurological deficits, underscoring the inherent risks of AVM surgeries. The marked difference in hospital stays between patients with ruptured and those with unruptured AVMs, particularly for SM grade III, highlights the significant impact of rupture status on postoperative recovery.

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, the authors delineated a novel paradigm using MxR for the surgical intervention of AVMs. Using 3D VR for preoperative planning and AR for intraoperative guidance, they achieved unparalleled precision and efficiency in targeting deep arterial feeders. While the results are promising, larger studies are needed to further validate this approach.

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Navigating the calvaria with mobile mixed reality–based neurosurgical planning: how feasible are smartphone applications as a craniotomy guide?

Ihsan Dogan, Halit Anil Eray, Onur Ozgural, Ozan Tekneci, Savas Hasimoglu, Macit Terzi, Emre Bahir Mete, Yusuf Cem Kuzukiran, Hasan Elmas, Ozgur Orhan, Bilal Abbasoglu, Eyup Bayatli, Murat Zaimoglu, and Sukru Caglar

OBJECTIVE

Virtual simulation and imaging systems have evolved as advanced products of computing technology over the years. With advancements in mobile technology, smartphones, and tablets, the quality of display and processing speed have gradually improved, thanks to faster central processing units with higher capacity. Integrating these two technologies into the fields of healthcare and medical education has had a positive impact on surgical training. However, contemporary neurosurgical planning units are expensive and integrated neuronavigation systems in operating rooms require additional accessories. The aim of this study was to investigate the compatibility of smartphone applications in augmented reality (AR)–based craniotomy planning, which can be available even in disadvantaged workplaces with insufficient facilities.

METHODS

Thirty patients diagnosed with supratentorial glial tumor and who underwent operations between January 2022 and March 2023 were included in the study. The entire stages of the surgical procedures and the surgical plans were executed with neuronavigation systems. The patient CT scans were reconstructed using software and exported as a 3D figure to an AR-enhanced smartphone application. The evaluation of the application’s success was based on the spatial relationship of the AR-based artificial craniotomy to the neuronavigation-based craniotomy, with each AR-based craniotomy scaled from 0 to 3.

RESULTS

In the comparison between neuronavigation-based and AR fusion-based craniotomies, 8 of 30 (26.6%) patients scored 0 and were considered failed, 6 (20%) scored 1 and were considered ineffective, 7 (23.3%) scored 2 and were considered acceptable, and 9 (30%) scored 3 and were considered favorable.

CONCLUSIONS

AR technology has great potential to be a revolutionary milestone of neurosurgical planning, training, and education in the near future. In the authors’ opinion, with the necessary legal permissions, there is no obstacle to the integration of surgical technological systems with mobile technology devices such as smartphones and tablets that benefit from their low-budget requirements, wide-range availability, and built-in operating systems.

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A patient-specific, interactive, multiuser, online mixed-reality neurosurgical training and planning system

Jingyue Wang, Yining Zhao, Xinghua Xu, Qun Wang, Fangye Li, Shiyu Zhang, Zhichao Gan, Ruochu Xiong, Jiashu Zhang, and Xiaolei Chen

OBJECTIVE

Mixed-reality simulation is an emerging tool for creating anatomical models for preoperative planning. Its use in neurosurgical training (NT) has been limited because of the difficulty in real-time interactive teaching. This study describes the development of a patient-specific, interactive mixed-reality NT system. The authors took cases of intracranial tumor resection or neurovascular compression (NVC) as examples to verify the technical feasibility and efficacy of the mixed-reality NT system for residents’ training and preoperative planning.

METHODS

This study prospectively enrolled 40 patients who suffered from trigeminal neuralgia, hemifacial spasms, or intracranial tumors. The authors used a series of software programs to process the multimodal imaging data, followed by uploading the holographic models online. They used a HoloLens or a standard iOS device to download and display the holographic models for training. Ten neurosurgical residents with different levels of surgical experience were trained with this mixed-reality NT system. Change in surgical strategy was recorded, and a questionnaire survey was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of the mixed-reality NT system.

RESULTS

The system allows the trainer and trainee to view the mixed-reality model with either a HoloLens or an iPad/iPhone simultaneously online at different locations. Interactive manipulation and instant updates were able to be achieved during training. A clinical efficacy validation test was conducted. The surgeons changed their exploration strategy in 48.3% of the NVC cases. For residents with limited experience in surgery, the exploration strategy for 75.0% of all patients with NVC was changed after the residents were trained with the mixed-reality NT system. Of the 60 responses for intracranial tumors, the trainee changed the surgical posture in 19 (31.7%) cases. The change of the location (p = 0.0338) and size (p = 0.0056) of craniotomy are significantly related to the experience of the neurosurgeons.

CONCLUSIONS

The mixed-reality NT system is available for local or real-time remote neurosurgical resident training. It may effectively help neurosurgeons in patient-specific training and planning of surgery for cases of NVC and intracranial tumor. The authors expect the system to have a broader application in neurosurgery in the near future.

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The role of extended reality in eloquent area lesions: a systematic review

Salvatore Marrone, Roberta Costanzo, Benedetta Maria Campisi, Chiara Avallone, Felice Buscemi, Luigi Maria Cusimano, Lapo Bonosi, Lara Brunasso, Gianluca Scalia, Domenico Gerardo Iacopino, and Rosario Maugeri

OBJECTIVE

The surgical approach to lesions near eloquent areas continues to represent a challenge for neurosurgeons, despite all of the sophisticated tools currently used. The goal of surgery in eloquent areas is to maintain a good oncofunctional balance, that is, to preserve neurological function and ensure maximum tumor resection. Among all the available tools, extended reality (used to describe both virtual reality [VR] and mixed reality) is rapidly gaining a pivotal role in such delicate lesions, especially in preoperative planning, and recently, even during the surgical procedure. VR creates a completely new world in which only digital components are present. Augmented reality (AR), using software and hardware to introduce digital elements into the real-world environment, enhances the human experience. In addition, mixed reality, a more recent technique, combines VR and AR by projecting virtual objects into the real world, allowing the user to interact with them.

METHODS

A systematic literature review of the last 23.5 years was conducted (January 2000–June 2023) to investigate and discuss all progress related to the emerging role and use of these new technologies (VR, AR, and mixed reality), particularly in eloquent area lesions as a pre- and/or intraoperative tool.

RESULTS

Five hundred eighty-four published studies were identified. After removing duplicates and excluding articles that did not meet the inclusion criteria, 21 papers were included in the systematic review. The use of AR or VR was fully analyzed, considering their roles both intraoperatively and for surgical planning.

CONCLUSIONS

The increasing use of such innovative technologies has completely changed the way to approach a lesion, using 3D visualization to foster a better understanding of its anatomical and vascular characteristics.

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Students’ perspectives regarding needs for and opportunities with mixed-reality education in neurosurgery at German medical schools

Johannes Wach, Dirk Winkler, Martin Vychopen, Fabian Kropla, Ronny Grunert, and Erdem Güresir

OBJECTIVE

Despite mixed reality being an emerging tool for tailored neurosurgical treatment and safety enhancement, the use of mixed reality in the education of German medical students is not established in the field of neurosurgery. The present study aimed to investigate medical students’ perspectives on the use of mixed reality in neurosurgical medical education.

METHODS

Between July 3, 2023, and August 31, 2023, an online survey was completed by German medical students through their affiliated student associations and educational institutions. The survey included 16 items related to mixed reality in neurosurgery, with participants providing ratings on a 4-point Likert scale to indicate their level of agreement with these statements.

RESULTS

A total of 150 students from 27 medical schools in Germany took part in the survey. A significant majority comprising 131 (87.3%) students expressed strong to intense interest in mixed-reality courses in neurosurgery, and 108 (72%) reported an interest in incorporating mixed reality into their curriculum. Furthermore, 94.7% agreed that mixed reality may enhance their understanding of operative neuroanatomy and 72.7% agreed with the idea that teaching via mixed-reality methods may increase the probability of the use of mixed reality in their future career. The majority (116/150 [77.3%]) reported that the preferred optimum timepoint for teaching with mixed reality might be within the first 3 years of medical school. In particular, more students in the first 2 years preferred to start mixed-reality courses in the first 2 years of medical school compared to students in their 3rd to 6th years of medical school (71.9% vs 41.5%, p = 0.003). Residents and attending specialists were believed to be appropriate teachers by 118 students (78.7%).

CONCLUSIONS

German medical students exhibited significant interest and willingness to engage in mixed reality in neurosurgery. Evidently, there is a high demand for medical schools to provide mixed-reality courses. Students seem to prefer the courses as early as possible in their medical school education in order to transfer preclinical neuroanatomical knowledge into operative neurosurgical anatomy by using this promising technique.

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Applications of enhanced recovery after surgery protocols for unruptured anterior circulation aneurysms in tertiary-level healthcare institutions: a national study

Fatih Yakar, Batuhan Bakirarar, Çağrı Elbir, Emrah Egemen, Şahin Hanalioğlu, Ümit Akın Dere, Serkan Civlan, Çağhan Tönge, Barış Albuz, Mehmet Erdal Coşkun, and Mehmet Erhan Türkoğlu

OBJECTIVE

Enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols are standardized perioperative care that reduce patients’ stress response during hospitalization and improve hospitalization time, complication rates, costs, and readmission rates. This study aimed to investigate the application rate of protocols for elective craniotomy in the surgery of unruptured anterior circulation aneurysms (AnCAs) at tertiary-level healthcare (TLH) institutions in Türkiye and its effect on the outcomes of the patients.

METHODS

An electronic survey was sent to all Turkish TLH institutions (n = 127) between May and June 2023. The number of institutions participating in the survey was 38 (30%). The institutions were subdivided according to three main factors: institution type (university hospital [UH] vs training and research hospital [TRH]), annual case volume (low [≤ 20 aneurysms] vs high [> 20 aneurysms]), and institution accreditation status (accredited vs nonaccredited).

RESULTS

Overall, 55.3% (n = 21) of the institutions participating in the study were UHs. The rates of those that were accredited and had a high case volume were 55.3% (n = 21) and 31.6% (n = 12), respectively. It was determined that the accredited clinics applied preoperative protocols at a higher rate (p = 0.050), and the length of stay in the postoperative period was shorter in the clinics that used the intraoperative protocols (p = 0.014).

CONCLUSIONS

The length of stay in the postoperative period is lower in TLH institutions in Türkiye that highly implement intraoperative protocols. Furthermore, this is the first study in the literature evaluating protocols for elective craniotomy in unruptured AnCAs.

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Development and implementation of an Enhanced Recovery After Cranial Surgery pathway following supratentorial tumor resection at a tertiary care center

Hammad A. Khan, Travis C. Hill, Carter M. Suryadevara, Camiren C. Carter, Alexander N. Eremiev, Akshay V. Save, John G. Golfinos, and Donato Pacione

OBJECTIVE

Controlling length of stay (LOS) reduces rates of nosocomial infections and falls, facilitates earlier return to daily activities, and decreases strain on the healthcare system. Complications following supratentorial tumor resection present early in the postoperative period, thereby enhancing the prospect of safe, early discharge. Here, the authors describe their initial experience with the development and implementation of an Enhanced Recovery After Cranial Surgery (ERACS) pathway following resection of supratentorial tumors in select patients.

METHODS

This was a nonrandomized, ambispective quality improvement study of patients undergoing elective craniotomy for supratentorial tumor resection at New York University Langone Health between November 17, 2020, and May 19, 2022. Eligible patients were prospectively enrolled in either the ERACS pathway or the standard pathway. These prospective cohorts were compared to a retrospective cohort of patients who met eligibility criteria for the pathway. Patients in the ERACS pathway cohort were targeted for discharge on postoperative day 2. The primary outcome metric was hospital LOS. Secondary outcome metrics included duration of intensive care unit (ICU) care and rates of 30-day emergency department visits, readmissions, and complications.

RESULTS

Over the study period, 188 of 317 patients (59.3%) who underwent supratentorial tumor resection met inclusion criteria for ERACS pathway enrollment. Sixty-three patients were enrolled in the ERACS pathway, and 125 patients completed the standard pathway. The historical cohort consisted of 332 patients who would have been eligible for ERACS enrollment. Patients in the ERACS pathway cohort had a median LOS of 1.93 days compared with 2.92 and 2.88 days for patients in the standard pathway and historical cohort, respectively (p < 0.001). There was a significant reduction in ICU utilization in ERACS pathway patients (16.0 ± 6.53 vs 29.5 ± 53.0 vs 21.8 ± 18.2 hours, p = 0.005). There were no differences in the rates of 30-day emergency department visits (12.7% vs 9.6% vs 10.9%, p = 0.809) and readmissions (4.8% vs 4.0% vs 7.8%, p = 0.279) between groups.

CONCLUSIONS

Patients in the ERACS pathway cohort experienced reduced LOS and ICU utilization, with similar rates of adverse outcomes compared to standard pathway patients. The authors’ initial experience suggests that an accelerated recovery pathway can be safely implemented following supratentorial tumor resection in select patients.