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VR Is Now a Part of the Patient Experience

Stanford Medicine is turning neuroimaging into a virtual reality game. The teaching hospital has developed a new software system that uses MRIs, CT scans, and angiograms to project a 3D model that physicians and patients can interact with.

The Virtual Reality system functions as both an educational and clinical tool for physicians, surgeons, and patients. Through the headset, surgeons can use the system as a guiding map for strategizing upcoming operations. “It’s a window into the brain of the particular patient we’re going to operate on,” Anand Veeravagu, MD, head of the Stanford Neurosurgical Simulation Lab told the university’s News Center.

In traditional surgical settings, surgeons can only rely on mental estimations and a video feed when operating on the brain. Now they can use 3-D visuals to reimagine the brain and make more detailed decisions. According to Gary Steinberg, MD, PhD, the Bernard and Ronni Lacroute-William Randolph Hearst Professor in Neurosurgery and Neurosciences, the 3-D renderings allow him to perfectly align his patient’s anatomy with the surgical microscopic view point, “something I can’t do with any other technology,” he said.

With VR, residents expand their skill set through workshops where they act as avatars traversing through the brain’s structure. They can fully examine the brain’s arteries, skull, and tissues, and see how an aneurysm or tumor looks like from a 360-degree angle.

Patients are choosing the VR technology over standard consultation procedures. “This software really helps them understand what it is they are about to undergo,” said Veeravagu. “Seeing it on the screen, in 3-D, really helps put a patient’s mind at ease.”

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