Seeing is Believing: Medical Imaging Takes a Sharp Dive into the Future thanks to Virtual Reality (VR)
Having been utterly amazed by the achievements brought about by Virtual Reality (VR), Dr. Glenn Pait, Director and Professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Services at University of Arkansas Little Rock said its an experience he had “never seen before.”
“I can go inside and I can sit inside the spinal canal. I can look up and down and can see the inside of the spine just like the spinal cord or a tumour would, something I’ve never seen before. So now when I operate on the outside, I can see from the inside out.”
What an encouraging endorsement of the technology poised to change how healthcare is provided and experienced?
But even before we get to what VR is helping achieve in healthcare, keep in mind that the gaming and entertainment worlds have already had their share of good tidings and experience with VR. Today, gaming enthusiasts can scuba dive, fly a plane, shoot on a pool or even mimic Spiderman and Batman, all from the comfort of their sitting room.
It’s no wonder then that Dr Glen and the medical fraternity at large are excited about being able to see “what an organ is going through” before commencing operation. MRIs, CT scans and the ability to view them on 2D have so far helped leap medical imaging forward, but it is apparent VR is ultimately on another level.
If you have a better view, you can give it a better treat
Enter 3D and healthcare providers can now examine whatever part they intend to work on from several angles and as well view surrounding organs thus helping to make a better judgement. What exactly does this mean to the surgeon?
- That lesser the time used on the operation table, the easier it is to relieve the patient of euthanasia.
- More efficiency and a promise to a quicker recovery.
Jason Salber, a radiologist at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, sums it up more precisely;
“Anything a doctor can do to better prepare before a surgery and shorten the time the patient is under anaesthesia will benefit the patient’s ability to bounce back.”
VR and AR; The Awesome Combination
Running hand in hand with VR is Augmented Reality (AR), a technology that has been applied significantly to provide solutions in various fields. Once again, radiology is one of the beneficiaries of this technological development. At the annual Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting in November 2017,, Professor Eliot Siegel, vice chair of information systems at the University of Maryland explained the distinction between these two technologies, although he noted acknowledged that they significantly overlap. VR, the prof explained, is an immersive technology through which an experience is stimulated in real time and users will have the same experience all no matter where they are. Whereas AR also stimulates experiences in real time, experiences are projected on the user’s physical surroundings.
The future is here : The Doctor Sees you Differently.
As VR and AR gain momentum in innovation and usefulness, it is clear that doctors will no longer have to imagine what a patient is experiencing but can now see every organ from as many angles as possible. In spite of the challenges experienced in terms of cost of product development and availability, VR and AR will be even more effective since it can be utilized by large, medium and even small scale healthcare providers.