By Shreya D'Souza, Updated By Shashidhar Pai
We often think about medicine in terms of doctors, that is, medicine is human-centric, with doctors prescribing medicine, diagnosing patients and performing surgeries. However, Virtual Reality has proven to be beneficial in the medical field.
VR as a medical education tool
VR can be used to efficiently educate clinicians by providing knowledge or by developing technical skills based on evidence-based practices and procedures. For example, VR can be used to:
Providing personalized and precise learning for gross and fine motor skills is highly useful in surgical subspecialties.
Facilitating the cognitive skills necessary for medical decision-making and effective communication
Clinician education from student to provider in the form of Anatomy education where VR provides for lower costs and increases accessibility for anatomical learning.
It is significantly better at increasing motivation and spatial understanding of anatomical structures cover the traditional books and videos.
Engage is a VR application that provides an excellent collaborative learning experience. It enables interactive learning with the ability to import 3D anatomical structures to help better visualize and understand the structures.
VR to visualize scientific medical data
Doctors and other health care individuals can use VR to render and view medical scan data in VR to better understand the Spatial volumetric data.
They may interact with the images and scans and alter them to enable viewing from a variety of angles compared to the traditional 3-axis view currently in use.
Tools like Paraview and Slicer 3D can be used to view these medical data in VR
Doctors-in-training can access parts one cannot usually reach
Full CGI reconstruction of human body - medical students normally interact only with cadavers, which do not necessarily give them an accurate representation of how a patient will react when alive
Medical Realities: Company that films surgeries in 4K 360˚ video and then combines that with CGI to create an immersive environment
Can switch between 3D and real CT views
VR played a vital role in the successful separation of conjoined twins at Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis:
Team of doctors used VR to look at organs more closely and detect any potential pitfalls
Can walk through the surgery so as to avoid any surprises
Simulations of scenarios in which psychological difficulties appear
Target triggers without having to actually travel to a different locations
Can create simulations of scenarios that are not easy to recreate in environments like therapy, such as being on a plane or on top of a cliff
Therapist can focus on patients response
Simulations can be categorized according to intensity/difficulty
Simulations can be repeated
Can isolate triggers in a much more controlled approach
Shown to reduce anxiety in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
Distraction for patients undergoing physical therapy
Reduces pain level
Physical therapy often last several months - VR allows for patients to feel some variation when put in different simulated environments
Helps keep patients focused during treatment that is long and emotionally-taxing
VR potentially more effective than cognitive tests in detecting early Alzheimer's
University of Cambridge researchers have trialled a VR navigation test on patients in risk of developing dementia
Successful completion of task requires entorhinal cortex
All patients with mild cognitive impairment preformed worse on the task
Task proved to be better at differentiating between low-risk and high-risk patients
Treating Pain/Chronic Pain
VR can stop the brain from processing pain
Shortens patient's time in hospital, reduces treatment cost
Some patients do not react well to anesthesia
VR can be used to mitigate pain during minimally invasive surgeries
VR has helped reduce pain for burn patients
"SnowWorld" made specifically for burn patients, which has reduced pain by up to 50%.