A surgeon in Mexico City is ditching painkillers by bringing virtual reality into the operating room.
Is virtual reality a powerful enough experience to distract humans from pain? Dr. Jose Luis Mosso Vazquez seems to think so. The accomplished surgeon has actually been using the immersive technology on his patients as a replacement for complicated sedatives for years. It’s a revolutionary new form of pain relief that could change the way we not only experience surgery, but how we recover from it as well.
Dr. Vazquez uses a combination of VR and simple anesthetics as a high-tech distraction technique, phasing out the need for potentially dangerous painkillers or powerful sedatives during his procedures.
In a recent surgery overseen by the forward-thinking doctor, the use of a virtual reality Machu Picchu experience combined with local anesthetics allowed the patient to forgo strong medication and painkillers during an operation that required her to remain conscious. The result was a relatively relaxed experience in which the patient was so fully engrossed in the virtual reality experience she barely noticed any pain or discomfort.
The method removes the need for patients to put their bodies through the negative effects of medication, drastically cutting everything from recovery times to the cost of procedures; sedatives and painkillers are a heavy expense for many hospitals, especially in the often under-funded medical facilities of Mexico City.
This is by no means a new venture for Dr. Vazquez. The 54-year-old surgeon based out of Panamerican University has been advocating the use of virtual reality in the operating room for years, having used simpler forms of VR in his operations for over a decade. After purchasing a rudimentary virtual reality Spiderman game for his son back in 2004, Vazquez saw potential in how distracted his son became while playing and began using the same game in his upper gastrointestinal endoscopies procedures. He would then record the experiences of his patients and gauge their levels of pain while using the immersive technology.
After presenting the findings at the 2006 Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference in California, the pioneering surgeon received a considerable amount of attention as well as resources to further expand his project. As a result, Vazquez has supervised and performed over 350 successful surgeries using virtual reality on his patients. As the technology advances and prices eventually begin dwindling, there’s no doubt VR will be an integral tool for the world of medicine in the coming years.