Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Contributed articles

Touchless Interaction in Surgery

Touchless Interaction in Surgery, illustrative photo

A glance around any operating theatre reveals many visual displays for accessing pre- and intra-operative images, including computer tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imagery (MRI), and fluoroscopy, along with various procedure-specific imaging applications. They support diagnosis and planning and provide a virtual "line of sight" into the body during surgery. Although surgeons rely on the capture, browsing, and manipulation of these images, they are constrained by typical interaction mechanisms (such as keyboard and mouse).

Back to Top

Key Insights


At the heart of the constraints is the need to maintain a strict boundary between what is sterile and what is not. When surgeons are scrubbed and gloved, they cannot touch these input devices without breaking asepsis. To get around it, several strategies are available for interacting with images, though they are often not ideal; for example, surgeons commonly request other members of the surgical team (such as radiographers and nurses) to manipulate images under their instruction.7,11 While it can succeed, it, too, is not without complications. Team members are not always available, producing frustration and delay. Issuing instructions, though fine for relatively discrete and simple image-interaction requests, can be cumbersome and time consuming. More significant, indirect manipulation is not conducive to the more analytic and interpretive tasks performed by surgeons using medical images. The way they interact with, browse, and selectively manipulate them is closely bound up with their clinical knowledge and clinical interpretation.

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.
Read CACM in a free mobile app!
Access the latest issue, plus archived issues and more
ACM Logo
  • ACM CACM apps available for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, and Android platforms
  • ACM Digital Library apps available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices
  • Download an app and sign in to it with your ACM Web Account
Find the app for your mobile device