HoloLens will help a children's hospital perform critical surgeries

Surgeons could see 3D heart scans in real time during operations.

A UK children's hospital plans to use Microsoft's HoloLens and Surface Hub during critical operations like heart surgery, Microsoft announced. Alder Hey hospital will employ the Surface Hub to let medical personnel collaborate and share images, while the HoloLens will be used directly in operating theaters. "Imaging a patient's heart from the inside and from the outside is absolutely essential," said Alder Hey cardiac surgeon Rafael Guerrero. "Microsoft HoloLens and mixed reality will, in the future, enable me to have a patient's scans in front of me while I'm doing the operation."

The Surface Hub 2 is a 50.5-inch, webcam-equipped 4K touch display that acts like a "huddle board," letting teams collaborate better in-person and remotely. It's ideal for hospitals, as it lets personnel instantly review ultrasounds, CT scans, tests and other patient info. That kind of info is normally stored on paper at locations around the hospital, making access a pain for a single doctor, let alone a group of medical professionals.

Multiple people can write Surface Hub notes, which can be time-stamped with the name of the author and displayed on the HoloLens during surgery, along with scans and other images. "If I can use technology to obtain that information, to see those images in front of me, that helps me tremendously and improves the outcome for my patient," said Guerrero.

HoloLens has yet to become a consumer product due to the high price, but the mixed-reality headset was embraced by companies for design, manufacturing, marketing and other purposes. Ford has used it to help designers visualize changes, for instance. It has also helped helped employees make complex repairs, while simultaneously serving as protective eyewear.

We've already seen the potential for mixed reality in hospitals; for instance a company called Scopis created a HoloLens design platform for spinal surgeries. However, Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool is one of the first to adopt the tech. It's currently working with Black Marble, a Microsoft Partner, to pioneer new surgery-based Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps for Surface Hub and HoloLens.

As Guerrero explained, the usefulness of such apps is pretty obvious during critical heart surgery. "I can't leave in the middle of an operation to go get more information about my patient," he said. "In many cases, the heart has already stopped in order for us to operate."