Instrument-Mounted Displays for Reducing Cognitive Load During Surgical Navigation

Surgical navigation systems rely on a monitor placed in the operating room to relay information. Optimal monitor placement can be challenging in crowded rooms, and it is often not possible to place the monitor directly beside the situs. The operator must split attention between the navigation system and the situs. We present an approach for needle-based interventions to provide navigational feedback directly on the instrument and close to the situs by mounting a small display onto the needle.

By mounting a small and lightweight smartwatch display directly onto the instrument we are able to provide navigational guidance close to the situs and directly in the operator’s field of view thereby reducing the need to switch the focus of view between the situs and the navigation system. We devise a specific variant of the established cross-hair metaphor suitable for the very limited screen space. We conduct an empirical user study comparing our approach to using a monitor and a combination of both.

Results from the empirical user study show significant benefits for cognitive load, user preference, and general usability for the instrument-mounted display, while achieving the same level of performance in terms of time and accuracy compared to using a monitor.

We successfully demonstrate the feasibility of our approach and potential bene- fits. With ongoing technological advancements instrument-mounted displays might complement standard monitor setups for surgical navigation in order to lower cognitive demands and for improved usability of such systems.