Anatomy Projector makes operations shorter and more reliable

13 May 2019

Translating on-screen medical information to a patient is difficult when a plastic surgeon has to work at the microscopic scale. The Anatomy Projector provides the solution. This technology was further developed during a Demonstrator project that was completed last month.

The Anatomy Projector

A plastic surgeon performing a breast reconstruction must work very accurately. He or she must know exactly where the microscopic blood vessels in the body are located, so that newly applied tissue is connected correctly to the circulatory system. CT or MRI scans made prior to the operation are displayed on screens in the operating theatre to guide the physician. However, this information still needs to be translated from the screen to the patient. There must be a smarter way of doing this, thought technical medicine researcher Dr Stefan Hummelink and colleagues from the Department of Plastic surgery and Department of Radiology at Radboudumc.

In 2014, they jointly developed the Anatomy Projector. This equipment can directly project images onto the patient's body using laser light. In the example given above, the projected image consists of the supplying blood vessels, so that the surgeon knows exactly where these are located. Even if the projector moves, the images remain correctly projected onto the patient. This helps the plastic surgeon to work more effectively and efficiently. Operations can therefore be shorter, and healthcare costs will eventually be reduced. The burden for the patient is also lessened, and the increased accuracy of the operation means it entails fewer risks.

Handy model

In 2017, Hummelink received a Demonstrator grant from NWO to further develop the project and to encourage the transfer of technology to the market. ‘The new model is handier and more user-friendly compared to the previous version’, says Hummelink. ‘That was driven by laptop attached to a lot of cables, which was inconvenient and error-prone.’ The laptop is no longer required, and with that, the cables have disappeared too: ‘The camera, computer, algorithms and projector are all contained in a single box which has the size of a tablet and is controlled via a touchscreen.’ Thanks to improvements in the algorithms, the projector also works better. Furthermore, uploading 3D models to the projector has been made easier, and the device has been designed for use in the operating theatre.

More possibilities

During his doctoral research, Hummelink investigated the possibilities of projecting medical images onto the human body during breast reconstructions. The previous version of the Anatomy Projector was already used in a research setting at Radboudumc, where it was shown to work. The newer model is now ready to be tested, says Hummelink. During these tests, the researchers also want to investigate how well the projector works in other areas. Besides breast reconstruction operations, Hummelink sees many other applications: for example within interventional radiology, for projecting the location where the needle needs to be inserted, or projecting incision lines for operations. Another possibility could be assessing the circulation, but that would require further development of the technology. However, there are also options outside of surgery, says Hummelink: ‘For example in education or at an anatomical museum. This technology can be used to point out something on a specimen.’

Now that the Demonstrator project has been completed, talks with investors interested in developing the technology further have started. The wider applications play a role in those talks. Hummelink: ‘We will study what physicians need the most. We are open to collaborating with companies interested in projecting medical information. What makes projects like this so fantastic is that one does them together with companies.’


Demonstrator is a funding instrument that helps researchers who want to apply knowledge from their scientific research and market it. The programme funds the development of a demonstration model to show that the technology developed has commercial potential.

> Further information about the Demonstrator programme can be found here

More information

Source: NWO