Think virtual reality is just about gaming and the world of make-believe? Get real. From product design to real estate, many industries have adopted VR and related technologies— and nowhere are the benefits of VR greater than in healthcare.
“We are seeing more and more of this incorporated faster than ever before,” said Dr. Ajit Sachdeva, Director of Education with the American College of Surgeons. “VR has reached a tipping point in medicine.”
As NBC News MACH reported previously, psychologists have found VR to be good for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. And stroke doctors, pain specialists, surgeons, and other medical practitioners have found their own uses for VR. In some cases, medical VR involves the familiar headsets; in others, 3D glasses and special video screens give a VR-like experience.
The use of VR and 3D visualization technology in medicine isn’t brand-new. Medical researchers have been exploring ways to create 3D models of patients’ internal organs using VR since the 1990s. But advances in computing power have made simulated images much more realistic and much faster to create.
X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can now be turned into high-resolution 3D images in under a minute, said Sergio Agirre, chief technology officer of EchoPixel, a Mountain View, California firm whose visualization software is being used in hospitals across the U.S. “Twenty years ago, it would probably take them a week to be able to do that.”
PLANNING COMPLEX OPERATIONS
These days, common surgical procedures like appendectomies or cesarean sections are often pretty routine — one case is similar to the next. But some especially complicated procedures — including the separation of conjoined twins — present unique challenges that can be met only with meticulous planning. For these, 3D visualization is proving to be a game-changer.
By Sarah DiGiulio | NBC News
Image Credit: Surgical Theater