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Surgeons turn to 3D technology — yes, the glasses, too

The 71-year-old woman is already under anesthesia and ready for surgery. But doctors and others inside an Evanston operating room have to do one more thing first:

Put on their 3D glasses.

With them in place, the room suddenly looks like something out of a science-fiction movie.

And the view is even trippier once they insert a camera scope via a small incision in the abdomen to get a view from inside the body of the woman’s bowels, uterus and bladder.

Dr. Riley Perry Lloyd uses 3D technology to perform surgery at  Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston

Dr. Riley Perry Lloyd | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Doctors at Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston are now performing all gynecological laparoscopic surgeries in 3D. They don 3D glasses and use a new kind of Olympus HD video camera — the EndoEye Flex 3D — that helps them operate with improved precision.

To get a sense of how it works, Dr. Riley Perry Lloyd allowed a reporter to observe a hysterectomy. Lloyd is a surgeon who is the hospital’s director of surgical core curriculum, charged with looking for new technologies, learning them and then teaching them to medical resident at the north suburban hospitals.

“We’re always looking at where the technology is, what works and what doesn’t work,” Lloyd says. “And then if it does work, we acquire it and then teach it.”

Lloyd brought the 3D technology to the hospital earlier this year and now performs all of his gynecological surgeries using the HD camera and wearing the glasses.

“The 3D technology allows us to have a lot more precision at grabbing or grasping tissue and identifying pathologies,” he says. “We are able to figure out and enhance blood vessels that look abnormal.”

Lloyd sees the technology as an important advancement in women’s health.

“Particularly in endometriosis, with regular technology you can’t see some of the lesions, so you have to artificially enhance them,” Lloyd says. “This gives us a big leap ahead in finding those abnormalities.”

A typical two-dimensional screen doesn’t offer doctors the same level of depth perception, he says.

“I know someone is standing further than you, but if we are on a 2D screen, you’d be sort of looking at the same depth,” he says. “When we are able to grasp tissue like it’s laid out, we’re seeing it in a three-dimensional image. So that gives us a lot more accuracy and precision.”

As Lloyd and chief resident Dr. Lara Weyl take turns using the laparoscopic tools, they recognize that the woman’s uterus and bladder are attached. — something they didn’t expect.

But with the aid of the 3D technology, they are able to detach the two organs from each other. There are blood vessels attached to the uterus, and the doctors tale care to avoid cutting off the blood supply.

Working through a single incision, the doctors operate the camera and a small scope that can separate tissue and cauterize it.

Dr. Riley Perry Lloyd uses 3D technology to perform a hysterectomy on a 71-year-old woman at Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston

Dr. Riley Perry Lloyd uses 3D technology to perform a hysterectomy on a 71-year-old woman at Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

The 3D technology makes surgeries “less complicated” and is less painful for patients compared with traditional surgeries, according to Lloyd, and that helps patients

“They get home quicker,” he says. “They recover quicker. With a lot of women’s health care, what we really look at is how can we improve health  — and that’s to reduce the number of surgeries. But if they have to have surgery, reduce the amount of invasiveness, and that gets them to recover quicker. That’s really what this offers.”

And how do patients react when Lloyd tells them he’ll be wearing 3D glasses during these sensitive surgeries? Their first thought is usually: sci-fi movies.

“Everybody likes science fiction, and when you’re introducing technology that puts you further into the future and enhances things, people think that’s cool,” Lloyd says.