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Removing the boundaries of surgery: 5G and AR enter the operating theatre

27 Jan 2022

Sabrina Baggioni

5G Program Director, Vodafone Italy

5G has proved itself to be a powerful tool in the healthcare industry.

Ensuring both high-speed connectivity and reliability, it has unleashed the potential of other technologies, driving the adoption of innovative solutions in healthcare and the empowerment of medical staff - inside and outside of the hospital.

For example, pairing 5G and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) allows ambulances to be connected to hospitals, helping response teams to share key patient data with the emergency departments faster than ever and ensuring a more accurate diagnosis and critical treatment even before arriving to the hospital.

5G and NB-IoT connect doctors and patients at the IFEMA field hospital to ensure aid is given when and where it is needed and 5G has even made search and rescue operations more successful.

Now, thanks to an innovative Italian start up, healthcare is taking a further step into the world of automation.

Enabling remote proctoring

Working with Artiness at the IRCCS San Raffaele hospital in Milan, we’ve conducted a clinical trial to perform intrusive heart surgery using a remote proctoring system.

Proctoring is the support provided to doctors by experts from the medical device companies, who guide them in the correct implant of medical devices during surgical procedures. This kind of support is normally carried out in person, with the expert being physically present in the operating theatre.

Artiness makes this support possible remotely, allowing real-time interaction between the doctor and the remote expert. Using augmented reality (AR) visors, connected and managed by 5G and MEC, the remote expert, also known as the proctor, has access to live medical data and a patient-specific holographic model of the heart, streamed directly from the operating room.

The surgeon, who can also interact with the 3D model, receives from the proctor real-time instructions on how to continue the surgery thanks to the speed and low latency of 5G edge computing technology.

This trial opens the possibility of new applications for the healthcare industry and shows how easy it is for proctoring to be carried out remotely when it comes to complex surgery.


Cultivating 5G innovation

I’m especially excited to share this story, as Artiness was the winner of our second “Action for 5G” Call in 2019 here in Vodafone Italy.

The competition is aimed at start-ups, SMEs and social businesses that want to contribute their ideas and projects to the development of 5G in Italy.

Founded in 2018 by researchers and professors of the Bioengineering Department of the Politecnico di Milano, Artiness brings augmented reality to the medical staff.

With a particular focus in the field of cardiovascular imaging and heart disease modelling, the solution, that allows medical images and detailed 3D models to be visualised as holograms by the medical team using visors, supports both the preparation and execution of surgery.

During the first phases of the Action for 5G program, with the financial support, technological know-how and access to our 5G Open Lab, Artiness was able to develop a prototype and live demonstration of the solution.

Now the solution is being used for a clinical test at the IRCCS San Raffaele hospital in Milan for a full validation of medical insights and impact on quality of operations, while in parallel, user experience and performance enhancements are being consolidated for larger scale deployment.

Supporting small businesses with big ideas

The fifth edition of “Action for 5G” is now open for innovative firms wanting to contribute to Italy’s 5G innovation. There is up to €2.5million available for the successful entrants to develop their projects using our 5G technology, alongside our expertise and support.

Apply now until February 1st 2022 or register for our “Action for 5G” Workshop to learn more about 5G technology and its potential for unlocking the power of your business.

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