18 nov. 2014

The resolution revolution: introducing 4K to the digital operating room


Ten years is a long time in technology. Imagine a world without social networks or the ability to buy and listen to music on the move, wherever you are – yet it’s only 10 years since the launch of Facebook and iPods changed our communication behavior forever. For surgeons, the introduction of high-definition (HD) imagery in the OR was just as significant – enabling more precise, high standard procedures.

It’s a decade later, and the OR is about to experience another watershed moment. 4K, which was introduced to cinemas a few years ago, is now set to revolutionize surgeons’ practice.

Providing approximately 8 million pixels to images, it is anticipated that 4K will dramatically transform surgical procedures for good. 

So, what exactly is 4K? 

4K, or ultra-high definition (UHD), offers a pixel array of 3840x2160 to yield a total of 8,294,400 pixels. This means it provides four times the resolution of the 1080 HD standard (utilizing 1920x1080 pixels to yield a total of 2,073,600 pixels). However, there is a bit of a discrepancy between how UHD is defined. In August 2012, the Consumer Electronics Association introduced the term Ultra High Definition, partly defined as resolutions of at least 3840x2160 pixels, to replace the term 4K. However, in practice, you will often see UHD used interchangeably with 4K. 

From Hollywood to the OR
Building on a rich legacy of 4K projection in our digital cinema division, we are now taking the lead in bringing 4K technology to the digital operating room. In order to do so, we are working closely with key medical imaging companies as well as some of the industry’s best-known 4K experts. One of them is Ted Schilowitz, innovator and futurist for 20th Century Fox and Barco’s digital cinema division. Schilowitz was at the scene of the first ever 4k surgical procedure and believes “Hollywood’s cinematic tools will revolutionize the digital operating room”, adding that it “delivers images that even surpass the live surgical performance”. 

Ted Schilowitz, 4K expert and CinemaVangelist for Barco

Why does the OR need 4K?
With a resolution four times that of HD imaging, 4K not only provides astonishing detail, but also more nuance, a high contrast ratio, truer levels of black and smoother images. With the rise of minimally invasive surgery, there’s a widely-held belief among industry experts that imaging technologies that give the surgeon greater precision, more control and flexibility will become more important than ever. In short, the more detail the surgical team sees, the more potential for error-free surgery, as it will increase the accuracy and efficiency of procedures. 

Just imagine what future technologies will be able to do. 8K SHV (Super-High Vision) with no less than a stunning 33 million pixels is already on the horizon. However, transmission of 8K signals still poses big issues today. But if all goes according to plan, we could have screens, content, and sources capable of 7680x4320-pixel resolution as soon as 2020. Beyond doubt, the future for digital surgery is looking bright!