Brain surgery can be a terrifying process; this VR tour of your brain could help ease anxiety.
Catherine Kumpitsch was talking with her doctors about recent unexplained headaches, dizzy spells and other sensations she had never felt before. It was during that appointment that she began displaying symptoms associated with absence seizures, prompting her doctor to insist on immediate brain scans. What they discovered was that she had a rare tumor that effected 1 in 500 people, and would require brain surgery to remove.
Her initial reaction was a feeling of numbness, shocked by the incredibly unlucky situation she found herself. But as her surgery got closer, she began to get incredibly nervous. “I was losing just a little more sleep each night and fear set in,” said Kumpitsch. She was terrified that she might end up a completely different person after her surgery, or that she could even die mid-procedure.
Ohio-based company Surgical Theater is well aware of the common reactions people facing brain surgery may often have, and are offering a solution that would use VR to dull – and in some cases – erase parts of that fear. Utilizing software called, Precision VR, patients can actually take a tour through a reconstructed version of their own brain in VR in order gain a better understanding of what the doctors are saying.
Most doctors will relay information through plastic models, diagrams, 2D images, even small drawings on a pad of paper – all potentially confusingmethods, especially if the patient, like many of us, don’t have any type of medical training. But by delivering that same conversation while at the same time using VR to help you visualize what the doctor is talking about, you’re able to walk around and look at your brain from different angles. This makes the information a lot easier to understand.
The VR models are created from actual CT and MRI scans through Surgical Theaters proprietary software. Once the virtual model is available, the doctor is able to take a walk through the VR model of your brain as a way to plan and strategize the best route for your surgery.
Patients and their family can also step inside of the VR experience through an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or other type of PC-powered VR headset. Once inside, your avatars will travel through the brain with your doctor as a guide.
Through VR, you are able to understand the diagnosis, prognosis, surgical plan, possible risks and benefits of the surgery. It creates a seamless transfer of knowledge from surgeons and hospitals to patients in a way that is easy to understand.
We already know that VR and AR has become a powerful tool for medical training, which is just one part of what Surgical Theaters Precision VR software can do. It’s the perfect platform for medical students to practice without risk, and it’s also a place for neurosurgeons to rehearse an upcoming surgery without risk.
It’s the patients, however, who stand to gain the most from this new form of healthcare education.
Understanding what will happen during surgery is incredibly important to patients. Kumpitsch said, “I was constantly online trying to find videos of the actual surgery being done so I could watch. I wanted to know how they did it, and what could happen.”
Tina Badat, Marketing Director for Surgical Theater, talked with VRScout, stating, “It’s a tool for patients, to engage them so they understand and educate themselves on what it is they have and what to expect during surgery,” Badat continues, “It’s not just patient centric, it’s not just physician centric, it ties in the patient along with the entire surgical team.”
So far Surgical Theaters has given over 6,000 patients a VR tour of their brains through Precision VR, which is an impressive number. As VR and AR continue to grow within the medical field, so has Surgical Theaters partnerships. VR pioneering hospitals and academic institutions across the nation, such as Stanford, NYU, Mt. Sinai, Case Western Reserve University Hospital, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Hackensack Meridian Health, and Providence Hoag Hospital, are all using Precision VR with their patients.
One thing to keep in mind is that VR technology is still evolving, and it does have its skeptics. Michigan State University’s Marissa Brandt, who studies VR trends told PBS, “I think that there’s a lot of potential benefit, but we don’t want to be premature about it solving a lot of problems.”
Valid point, but in the meantime, you can’t deny that VR and AR technology are changing the medical field for both doctors and their patients.
As for Ms. Kumpitsch, she is now safe at home recovering from her surgery and listening to her favorite bands, Fleetwood Mac and Breaking Benjamin.