Life on iPad

New eyes for hands-on surgery.

Dr. Itaru Endo, Director of Digestive Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Yokohama City University. Liver surgeries are particularly complicated and difficult. And surgeons are often without valuable information in their operating rooms. That’s why Dr. Itaru Endo and Fraunhofer MEVIS have developed an iPad app that displays interactive patient data during surgery to save time — and lives.

In Dr. Itaru Endo’s 25-year career as a surgeon, he’s seen a lot of room for improvement in liver operations. The liver is one of the most vascular organs, receiving about 1.5 liters of blood every minute. This makes liver surgeries very difficult and lengthy, and planning for them equally painstaking. Doctors use expensive navigation hardware, print copious screenshots, or memorize incision plans to transfer the planning data into the operating room. Not only is the process incredibly time-consuming, but it also leaves open the possibility for many complications.

Dr. Endo felt the process could be improved. He envisioned a better and safer procedure — using an iPad app. So he teamed up with Dr. Ryusei Matsuyama, a fellow surgeon at Yokohama City University, and his colleague, senior software developer Alexander Köhn from Fraunhofer MEVIS, a research institute for medical image computing in Germany, to develop an app that helps minimize the risks involved with liver surgery.

“We use iPad to overlay 3D blood vessels and monitor blood flow during surgery, giving us more patient information in the operating room.” Dr. Itaru Endo, Director of Digestive Surgery and Liver Transplantation

The iPad app, which is moving through clinical evaluations, provides comprehensive access to three-dimensional surgical data. The app uses augmented reality to overlay complex vascular systems during operations. This reveals liver perfusion patterns that are invisible to the human eye, giving greater insight into the exact location of certain blood vessels. The app also shows local blood flow territories and assesses potential risks in real time. “The visualization of liver blood vessels puts surgeons at ease,” Dr. Endo explains, “and it helps to ensure that the right incisions are made at the right time.”

Using iPad apps during surgery has gained popularity in the medical community for saving lives and also for saving money. “Augmented reality and other features of the app can replace equipment that costs half a million dollars,” estimates Dr. Endo. And as he and his partners continue building on their work, more surgeons will bring iPad apps into the operating room, and more patients will experience safer, more successful operations. “Anytime I touch Apple products, I feel that dreams will come true,” says Dr. Endo. “It makes me proud to be a user of such fantastic products.”

“Using this app on iPad can reduce complications and shorten the length of surgeries.” Dr. Itaru Endo.
“This innovation really works. It can improve lives. And it’s changing surgery.” Dr. Andrea Schenk, Head of Liver Research, Fraunhofer MEVIS Institute for Medical Image Computing