Stereoscopic augmented reality for laparoscopic surgery



Conventional laparoscopes provide a flat representation of the three-dimensional (3D) operating field and are incapable of visualizing internal structures located beneath visible organ surfaces. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) images are difficult to fuse in real time with laparoscopic views due to the deformable nature of soft-tissue organs. Utilizing emerging camera technology, we have developed a real-time stereoscopic augmented-reality (AR) system for laparoscopic surgery by merging live laparoscopic ultrasound (LUS) with stereoscopic video. The system creates two new visual cues: (1) perception of true depth with improved understanding of 3D spatial relationships among anatomical structures, and (2) visualization of critical internal structures along with a more comprehensive visualization of the operating field.


The stereoscopic AR system has been designed for near-term clinical translation with seamless integration into the existing surgical workflow. It is composed of a stereoscopic vision system, a LUS system, and an optical tracker. Specialized software processes streams of imaging data from the tracked devices and registers those in real time. The resulting two ultrasound-augmented video streams (one for the left and one for the right eye) give a live stereoscopic AR view of the operating field. The team conducted a series of stereoscopic AR interrogations of the liver, gallbladder, biliary tree, and kidneys in two swine.


The preclinical studies demonstrated the feasibility of the stereoscopic AR system during in vivo procedures. Major internal structures could be easily identified. The system exhibited unobservable latency with acceptable image-to-video registration accuracy.


We presented the first in vivo use of a complete system with stereoscopic AR visualization capability. This new capability introduces new visual cues and enhances visualization of the surgical anatomy. The system shows promise to improve the precision and expand the capacity of minimally invasive laparoscopic surgeries.

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The funding for this project came from internal institutional sources.


X. Kang, M. Azizian, E. Wilson, K. Wu, A. D. Martin, T. D. Kane, C. A. Peters, K. Cleary, and R. Shekhar have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.

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Correspondence to Xin Kang.

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Kang, X., Azizian, M., Wilson, E. et al. Stereoscopic augmented reality for laparoscopic surgery. Surg Endosc 28, 2227–2235 (2014) doi:10.1007/s00464-014-3433-x

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  • Augmented reality
  • Surgical visualization
  • Stereoscopic visualization
  • Multimodality image fusion
  • Laparoscopic surgery