By Paul Matthews
Virtual reality was first pioneered in the gaming industry. Back then, nobody could have foreseen the way it would break out of video game development and into the real world. Since it was discovered that virtual reality could be used for so much more than just a futuristic concept for video gaming, several industries have tested the technology to see how it could benefit them.
In terms of the healthcare industry, it’s already made its mark. Here’s how VR will change the world of surgery:
Transforming How Surgeons Learn and Train
There are a number of aspects of the health industry that can be helped with VR. Orthopaedic surgeons, for one, are now using it to train, instead of the plastic models previously used. Using plastic was expensive and wasteful (as they could only be used once), but VR headsets mean surgeons can train as often as they need. Furthermore, VR isn’t just about being able to witness what’s happening. New training techniques combining VR and haptic technology allow surgeons to actually feel the resistance of tissue in simulations.
In addition, VR is also proving to be beneficial for neurosurgery. Surgeons can utilise the world of 3D and computer-generated graphics to take a virtual tour of the patient’s brain using a headset, compiled from CT scans and X-ray images. The whole procedure instantly becomes a lot more visual for the surgeon. They can then relay this information to the patient.
It’s clear that virtual reality is already providing benefits for surgeons in terms of:
- The accuracy
- The number of times they can practice a procedure
- Cutting costs of training
Improving Surgical Teams Teamwork
For every major operation, there’s a team of surgeons that need to work together. Virtual reality can help some surgical teams familiarise themselves with upcoming procedures. It will also help them to understand each other’s way of working, particularly if they’ve not worked together beforehand. What’s more, there have been several ideas put forward for an app specially created by app developers to be linked to VR, especially for teamworking purposes.
Any technology that can make a team feel more prepared is surely extremely beneficial to the healthcare industry. It’s even been suggested that surgeons who train with virtual reality make fewer errors than those who have been using traditional methods.
Benefits for Mental Health of Patients
There’s also been significant research to show that virtual reality can improve the mental health of patients going into hospital for an operation. Studies have been conducted into the mental health of patients before, during and after invasive procedures. It’s been proven that patients using VR can enter a different state of consciousness which can change the way they feel pain, reducing their anxiety levels. It’s almost like a form of hypnosis via a virtual reality headset.
The Future of VR in Surgery
It’s an exciting time to be a surgeon with the world of virtual reality changing the face of healthcare as we know it. It’s already confirmed to be beneficial to healthcare providers and patients, improving the standard of care available even in its infancy. There’s no doubt that virtual reality has plenty of developments to undergo, which means it’s even more intriguing to see how else it can be adapted to other industries.