From computer-assisted intervention research to clinical impact: The need for a holistic approach

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Abstract

The early days of the field of medical image computing (MIC) and computer-assisted intervention (CAI), when publishing a strong self-contained methodological algorithm was enough to produce impact, are over. As a community, we now have substantial responsibility to translate our scientific progresses into improved patient care. In the field of computer-assisted interventions, the emphasis is also shifting from the mere use of well-known established imaging modalities and position trackers to the design and combination of innovative sensing, elaborate computational models and fine-grained clinical workflow analysis to create devices with unprecedented capabilities. The barriers to translating such devices in the complex and understandably heavily regulated surgical and interventional environment can seem daunting. Whether we leave the translation task mostly to our industrial partners or welcome, as researchers, an important share of it is up to us. We argue that embracing the complexity of surgical and interventional sciences is mandatory to the evolution of the field. Being able to do so requires large-scale infrastructure and a critical mass of expertise that very few research centres have. In this paper, we emphasise the need for a holistic approach to computer-assisted interventions where clinical, scientific, engineering and regulatory expertise are combined as a means of moving towards clinical impact. To ensure that the breadth of infrastructure and expertise required for translational computer-assisted intervention research does not lead to a situation where the field advances only thanks to a handful of exceptionally large research centres, we also advocate that solutions need to be designed to lower the barriers to entry. Inspired by fields such as particle physics and astronomy, we claim that centralised very large innovation centres with state of the art technology and health technology assessment capabilities backed by core support staff and open interoperability standards need to be accessible to the wider computer-assisted intervention research community.

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