A surgeon at Montreal's McGill University Health Centre is breaking ground by using a new medical technology — augmented reality — for sinus operations.

Dr. Marc Tewfik, an assistant professor in the department of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, has performed five surgeries so far this year at the Royal Victoria Hospital using augmented reality.

The technology essentially shows surgeons a 3D map of a patient's nasal system — while they're operating.

augmented reality

Augmented reality shows the surgeon a 3D map of a patient's nasal system while operating on the patient. (CBC)

"With the old system … we used to use a pointer, put it on the patient, look at another screen and try to triangulate where on the scan you are in the patient. Now what we're able to do is say, 'I want to see the artery, or the optic nerve,' and it'll show up right on our screen," Tewfik said.

"We can even put alarms to tell us when we are too close to these critical structures."

Tewfik said the technology makes complex surgeries quicker and safer.

"This system allows us to understand better what's happening to the anatomy … and allows us to really avoid causing any problems."

Chantay Rose will be one of the first sinus injury patients in North America to benefit from the technology.

When she went skiing for the first time in 2015, a nasty fall left her with serious facial injuries.

Chantay Rose

Chantay Rose will be one of the first patients in North America to have ENT surgery with the new technology. (CBC)

"I broke my nose, fractured a bit of bones underneath my eye, and it cut me on my left-hand side on my face."

She still needs surgery to repair a torn tear duct — a delicate operation.

"I'm a little bit nervous but, at the same time, happy that I will be one of the first people to do it."

Tewfik said augmented reality technology won't just help in the operating room but will also help in the classroom.

The MUHC was chosen the manufacturer to spearhead the use of this equipment because of its focus on education.

Tewfik is using it as a teaching tool for the next generation of surgeons.

"It allows the trainees to develop a 3D understanding of the anatomy. It's a better way for new surgeons to learn how to do the surgery...and not only people who come to our courses here, but it can be done online."

"It can be done all around the world."

The MUHC says Tewfik is also training other doctors at the hospital centre how to use the equipment.

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours