Neurosurgery resident Andrew Cutler demonstrates how HoloLens-aided EVD placement might look when performed in a clinic or ER. (Credit: Andrew Cutler)

Surgeons and engineers are working to make emergency neurosurgical procedures safer with the help the HoloLens, a new pair of augmented reality (AR) goggles from Microsoft. The HoloLens adds to, or “augments,” existing reality by projecting virtual, 3D images onto real-world objects.

The idea for HoloLens-aided brain surgery started with neurosurgery who were searching for a way to help guide doctors during “blind” surgeries like extraventricular drain (EVD) placement, an often life-saving, procedure designed to relieve pressure when excess fluid gathers in the brain. To perform EVD, a surgeon must quickly drill a hole through a patient’s skull and then stick a catheter into the precise spot where fluid has pooled.

The researchers created a prototype HoloLens simulation for EVD placement. Previous technologies have been plagued with issues like jitter and latency. The HoloLens has made great improvements. The researchers think the holograms could be a boon in a variety of other neurological surgeries, saying that it is an improvement over the current OR system because the image is directly overlaid on the patient, without having to look to computer screens for aid.