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Surgeon trains in Virtual Reality before performing successful surgery

Josef Erl
Surgeon with VR headset trains his next surgery in VR


An orthopedic surgeon successfully prepares for surgery in virtual reality, demonstrating the value of VR in medical education.

Dr. Jake Shine, an orthopedic surgery resident, recently performed a successful shoulder replacement after preparing for it in virtual reality. He and a supervising physician used a Meta Quest 2 to practice the upcoming surgery in a 3D simulation.

After the VR training, which he completed twice a day leading up to the surgery, Shine successfully performed the nearly two-hour operation. He told CNBC that he believes the surgery went more smoothly and quickly because of the preparation in VR. “You can really fine-tune and learn what to do, but also what definitely not to do, with zero risk to the patient,” Shine said.

VR as an important tool in medical training

This example shows the growing potential of VR in the healthcare industry. Jan Herzhoff, president of Elsevier Health Sciences, highlights the potential of VR. Medical students would gain a better understanding of medical problems through hyper-realistic 3D models.

Virtual reality is increasingly finding its way into medical training facilities. Institutions such as Kettering Health Dayton in Ohio see VR as a valuable contribution to medical education and treatment. VR is already a required part of the curriculum for first-year orthopedic residents.

During a month-long “boot camp”, medical students practice clinical skills in the morning and use VR in the afternoon. They must complete at least three modules per week, with a minimum score of 70 percent. In the future, VR training will be integrated into all levels of education.

VR training in healthcare: good, but not yet ideal

An important piece of software often used in medical VR training is PrecisionOS. The software company of the same name develops VR modules for training surgeons and medical students. In 2018, the company received a million-dollar grant for its VR surgeon training.

Dr. Richard Miller of the University of Rochester already calls the VR application highly realistic and sophisticated. However, he says there is an urgent need to regularly update and evolve the software to meet current medical standards.

The same goes for the hardware. According to Dr. Rafael Grossmann of Portsmouth Regional Hospital in New Hampshire, the technology is constantly improving, but is still too bulky for many doctors. Grossmann was the first doctor to use Google Glass smart glasses during a surgery in 2013.

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