Endoguide: Endoscope with a 360-degree view

Oct. 01, 2008 to Sep. 30, 2011

Modern endoscopes offer the surgeon a limited viewing angle of typically 70 degrees. As a result, doctors can only observe a small segment of their operative area. A panoramic view corresponding to the natural human visual field is missing. An endoscope with a 360-degree view is thus currently being developed in the Endoguide project. With the new endoscope, the surgeon can initially perform an automatic scan function that provides a panoramic view. Afterwards, a 360-degree image of the scan is generated by combining appropriate images on several monitors or on a dome-shaped screen to achieve a more natural visual experience. At the same time, the surgeon sees a live picture of the procedure on a monitor.

Simultaneously, the section of the panoramic image the surgeon is currently viewing can be graphically indicated in the 360-degree image. This constitutes an important element of navigating a patient’s body. Focusing is done automatically while the functions zooming or changing the viewing direction can be controlled by the physician using a hands-free interface that can, for instance, be voice-controlled. Over the next three years, the project will be funded with six million Euros within the scope of the ‘Alliance for Innovation – Virtual Technologies’ by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

VISCOM will initially develop a virtual prototype (simulator) emulating the functionalities of a guided video endoscope to test the requirements and functionalities at an early model stage. The scientists will generate the simulator’s control software and video processing and ensure that the surgeon can use the endoscope to see the instruments at all times through image-based monitoring of the instruments. A requirement analysis is conducted based on this model which will constitute the foundation for the development of the optical and mechanical components.

Any interaction with the endoscope shall be as intuitive as possible for the physician. Consequently, one element of research is what type of control (e.g. by language or head-mounted display with orientation tracker) will be the most appropriate regarding robustness and safety. Another approach currently being researched to improve minimally invasive surgery techniques is combining individual patient data with the endoscope’s image. In doing so, the 360-degree image or live image may be enhanced by adding patient data which may also be displayed adjacent to the image. Navigating the patient’s body is made easier by targeting specific locations that have been determined in pre-operative planning. Researchers at VISCOM are developing software to mark these body locations on the image during surgery. This simplifies the search and ensures that no important locations are overlooked.