Coming to an Op Theatre near You; Star Trek Lasers Take Medicine to the Final Frontier

By McLEAN, Jim | Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), November 4, 1998 | Go to article overview

Coming to an Op Theatre near You; Star Trek Lasers Take Medicine to the Final Frontier


McLEAN, Jim, Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)


MOVIE theatre magic is coming to an operating theatre near you as medical science steals technology from fantasies such as Star Trek and Total Recall.

Surgeons at the cutting edge are now carrying out intricate operations using 3-D holograms, like those of Arnold Schwarzenegger as he battles the bad guys on Mars.

These exist thanks to confidential research by American military surveillance experts.

But as the technology falls off the top secret shelf, it is the field of medical science which will benefit.

The images - projected with the help of laser optical fibres and the latest generation of high-powered computers - allow surgeons greater accuracy when it is needed most.

When it comes to cutting out cancers, it means healthy tissue can be preserved.

Gone are the days of surgeons wearing 3D goggles straight out of a 1950s sci-fi film. Now surgeons using the hologram lasers can "see" inside the body they are operating on thanks to state- of-the-art monitors which are designed to emphasise depth.

Soon, experts predict, surgeons will have full-scale 3-D patients to operate on.

It means a consultant in Glasgow, with his 3-D hologram suite, will be able to carry out a precise operation on a man in Stornoway. The surgeon in Glasgow will make incisions on the hologram and, in Stornoway, a super- robot will instantly replicate the work.

The surgeon will, in a sense, have a better view than the robot. At the flick of a switch, a computer will map out skin tissue, veins, arteries, tendons, bone and essential organs. There will be no blood and swabs to block the view.

Already, American scientists have been involved in trials of a special minicomputer eye piece worn by the surgeon.

Detailed scans from inside the body, gained using the latest in magnetic resonance scans and X-rays, are called up by the surgeon.

Combining this view with normal eyesight, what the surgeon sees is a virtual image of the inside of the patient's body superimposed - or "floating" - on top of the patient. …

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