Novel AR glasses help doctors to locate lymph nodes during surgery

Malignant tumors often form metastases that spread to other parts of the body via the lymphatic system. High surgical skills are required to identify the precise location of the affected lymph nodes, enabling them to be completely removed. Fraunhofer researchers have developed a navigation aid that simplifies such interventions. 3D-ARILE is an augmented reality (AR) system that superimposes a virtual image of the exact position of the lymph nodes using data glasses. The new system will be presented to the public at the Medica trade fair, from November 13 to 16.

According to the German Federal Statistical Office, the number of patients treated for skin cancer in German hospitals has grown significantly in recent years. Malignant melanoma, or black skin cancer, is the diagnosis that most people fear. Cancer cells can, for example, be transported by the lymph fluid to the lymph nodes. This leads to the growth of secondary tumors, or metastases. The first lymph nodes to be affected are referred to as sentinel lymph nodes. They are the first to receive lymphatic drainage from a malignant, primary tumor, and if they contain cancer cells it’s likely that other metastatic tumors have begun to grow elsewhere. Sentinel lymph nodes therefore play a primordial role in the diagnosis and therapy of certain types of cancer such as skin, breast or prostate cancer. After excision of the tumor, a lymph node biopsy is carried out to determine whether metastasis has taken place.

Despite advances in medical science, it is still difficult for doctors to determine the precise anatomical location of sentinel lymph nodes during surgery and to check that the affected lymph nodes have been completely removed. 3D-ARILE, developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD, provides doctors with a navigation aid for lymph node removal. The Clinic for Dermatology at Essen University Hospital and Trivisio Prototyping GmbH…

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