Each piece of information on real and possible applications of virtual reality in medicine is of great interest to me. Why? Our health is one of the values that we care about in a special way, generally when something wrong begins to happen to us. Of course, we may never need to use any specialized treatment ourselves, but it may be a brand new unprecedented opportunity of treatment for our loved ones. Therefore, it is important to be up-to-date with VR in medicine as this technology can greatly improve our quality of life, especially in difficult moments.
Researchers from New York have developed a program which, thanks to VR, allows us to better understand genetic mutations that lead to cancer. It turns out that not all genetic mutations lead equally to the disease and not all affect the movement of the disease throughout the body. However, among those with whom our body struggles such danger appears continually. Therefore, if among these mutated cells we find those really harmful, the doctors can precisely and effectively decide on the right treatment – VR opens a new field for precision medicine.
How does it work in practice? In short, scientists use the VR goggles to watch three-dimensional models of proteins. It is so important that in two-dimensional imaging, essential information may remain hidden (that may be located in the third dimension).
At the moment, the method is used primarily for research and scientific interpretation of the received information, obtained from such imaging. It is important to point out that scientists do not replace traditional tools, but make effort to increase the amount of information about a particular patient and his problem with the help of VR goggles.
Contemporary Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed always too late, that is, at a time when irreversible changes have already appeared in the brain of the patient. That’s why Canadian scientists created a system of early warning based on VR technology. It captures the unnatural “suspicious” behavior of the patient in the virtual world and gives a reason to suspect him to be at the beginning phase of the disease. Detected in its early stadium, the disease can be more liable to treatment…
The simulation is based on the performance of the task that focuses on spatial orientation. A patient may have no consciousness that something is wrong. But this is not the end, only the first tests to check the patient’s health status. Disorientation puts him only in a state of suspicion. Now, the second element of simulation – bio-sensor, designed for this particular app. is to test the level of protein in the patient.
“If we can show that behavior is changing, along with the Neuropathology, then we can be quite positive that someone has Alzheimer’s disease,” says researcher Jesslyn Janssen.
With the help of VR, medical imaging has reached a new level of reality. We can look at the kidneys, intestines, or heart on each side; divide them into pieces, and look inside. In this case, too, it is not about replacing proven tools. With the additional capability, we are able to see (literally) the problematic sites or organs in the body.
Using the patient’s data, we can create a three-dimensional image of his organs. Instead of looking at the calculation, you can plunge into the patient’s body and choose the best method of dealing with the problem. Research shows that this kind of work reduces up to 40% of the time needed to plan the surgery and significantly increases the accuracy of a surgeon.
An important aspect discussed during the imaging element is training. This is definitely a better alternative for young doctors who gain the qualifications and skills differently than work on the corpse.
Lately, we have heard about the use of VR during brain surgery. Why did doctors decide to choose this solution? A team of researchers from the French University of Angers performed a complex surgery to remove a brain tumor, while there was a serious threat of losing sight of the patient.
Therefore, they sought a way to closely monitor his eyes. As the patient is conscious during such an operation, they provided him additional attractions through the VR goggles. A simple application made it possible to check if the vision was ok during the entire procedure.
The operation went flawlessly.
Subsequent laboratory center boasts of the doctors’ achievements in the treatment of patients affected by stroke. The doctors say that they also came to the conclusion that rehabilitation techniques conducted by VR experience are complementary to traditional rehabilitation techniques.
The aim of rehabilitation is to retrain the brain to control body movements. The brain is a very plastic organ of amazing possibilities, and if stimulated properly, it can reorganize its processes from the damaged part and transfer them to the healthy site. In other words, new parts of the brain can learn to do things that previously belonged to other parts. All you have to do is to persuade it through an appropriate activity. VR simulations are the best for this. Their great advantage is the ability to use them regardless of clinic visits or a meeting with the physiotherapist. Susana Rodríguez González says: “Alterations in language, swallowing problems, equilibrium disorders, neuropsychological problems, attentional disorders … We could also address those issues with tools like this. Strokes affect not only the patient’s physical strength but also his/her psychomotor activity. We could also address those issues with virtual reality tools like the ones we have developed. “
If we open our eyes to new technologies, many people with health problems will be able to use modern tools freely and benefit from the opportunities appearing with the renaissance of virtual reality.