HoloSurge awarded €8.9M Horizon Europe grant to improve surgical planning with hologram technology

HoloSurge, an ambitious four-year initiative, has secured one of the largest EU grants in recent history, amounting to €8.9 million. This project unites 14 European leaders in technology and healthcare research, aiming to mitigate the risk of complications during planned surgeries.

The funding, provided by the transnational research and innovation funding body Horizon Europe, will support the advancement of organ hologram technology, enhancing surgical decision-making.

This cutting-edge technology, developed by the Norwegian medtech company HoloCare, already offers liver surgeons interactive 3D holograms of organs. It is utilised by medical professionals to plan and customise operations according to the unique anatomical features of each patient.

The Horizon Europe Programme, with a funding pot of approximately £80 billion, is dedicated to fostering research initiatives that concentrate on three core areas: excellent science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges. This programme provides critical opportunities for NHS involvement in health research and innovation across these pillars, offering a significant chance for the UK to engage with European scientific leaders and advance its healthcare services, despite its departure from the EU in 2020.

In terms of advancing surgical precision, the use of hologram technology is already showing promising results. Initially deployed for liver surgeries at five European hospitals, including Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust, trials have demonstrated a 74% reduction in the time required to align organs during surgery when using HoloCare's augmented reality (AR) images compared to MRI scans.

Surgeons employ augmented reality headsets, such as the Microsoft HoloLens, to visualise a 3D hologram of a patient’s organ. This tool not only facilitates more efficient and precise planning of operations but also allows surgeons to manipulate the hologram—moving, rotating, and expanding it to view the organ from various perspectives.

Furthermore, colleagues equipped with these headsets can interact with the hologram simultaneously, whether they are in the same room or collaborating remotely. This feature enables multidisciplinary teams to consult with external specialists about potential surgical challenges, significantly enhancing the decision-making process during planning.

Looking ahead, there are plans to superimpose these holograms onto the patient during surgery itself, serving as a reference point to increase accuracy and improve intraoperative navigation.

Meeting critical needs in modern surgery

Currently, surgery is the main treatment for liver cancer, with the potential to extend some patients' lives by up to 10 years. If surgery isn't an option, patients may undergo palliative chemotherapy, which typically offers around 3 years of survival.

The holographic technology, developed by HoloCare, is set to significantly improve both the surgical process and the decision-making before surgery, potentially reducing complications. This includes issues such as infection, bleeding, organ damage and death – which currently affect up to 48% of liver surgeries and 60% of pancreatic surgeries.

Due to their two-dimensional nature, traditional imaging methods, such as ultrasound, MRI and CT scans, can also result in surgeons missing critical details. Around 40% of all lesions in the tail of the pancreas currently go unnoticed using ultrasound technology.

Integration of hologram technology into surgical workflows

Over a four-year period, the 14 HoloSurge partners will support the integration of the cutting-edge hologram technology into existing surgical workflows. The team will ensure regulatory compliance, clinical validation, and technical optimisation for widespread adoption in liver and pancreatic cancer surgeries.

Prof David Jayne, Professor of Surgery at the University of Leeds and Hon. Consultant Surgeon at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust: “The Holocare technology is an exciting advance in how we treat cancer patients with the potential to transform surgical care. The superior anatomical knowledge gained from the technology will enable more precise surgery with better cancer outcomes for patients.”

Dr Thomas Lango, Chief Scientist at St. Olavs Hospital and SINTEF in Trondheim, Norway: “The fusion of available data sources (CT, MR, ultrasound) into holograms made available for clinicians in minimally invasive procedures like laparoscopic surgery and flexible endoscopy will change the way clinicians work in the future. It will empower clinicians to navigate intricate anatomical landscapes with unprecedented precision and 3D understanding not readily available from traditional cross sectional 2D images. The HoloCare technology promises to not only improve image-guided medical procedures, but also collaboration and training of new experts.”

Jahn Otto, Innovation Director at HoloCare: “Innovation has long been the foundation for prosperity in Europe, from the breakthroughs improving healthcare to the technological advances growing our economy. In essence, Horizon Europe is not just about funding; it's about forging connections, driving innovation, and shaping the future of healthcare. This not only opens doors for collaboration with the EU but also with Norway.

“The HoloSurge partnership stands as a testament to this. Through joint efforts with experts from the EU, UK and Norway, we’re aiming to use our hologram technology to transform the surgical outcomes of individuals worldwide. Our hope is that it can be adapted to benefit a wider range of surgeries in the future.”