How VR Is Changing Healthcare In Ways You Can’t Imagine!

We, at Systweak have evolved over the last one year. Initially, our blogs focused on helping the ‘bumbling average user’ cope with his/her daily technical misadventures. One would find solutions to rid their phone of junk files to retrieving files deleted by mistake and so on. While we still continue to provide you – our readers – with information on how to keep your devices and systems up and running with regular posts on security, battery conservation, tips and trick, we have made a conscious effort to widen our horizon. Our coverage has become more varied with generous sprinklings of technology in pop culture, latest developments in technology, social networking, and much more.

For me personally, it has been an eventful journey so far. I have acquired a fresh perspective on technology and particularly technical writing. It is not just about writing mundane and jargon-loaded, difficult-to-read articles on things a regular person like you or me would hardly care about. Especially, with technology affecting our regular routine on a personal level, writing and reading about it has become more interesting than I expected it to be.

At the same time, ‘technology’ is so vast, dynamic, and fast-paced, it becomes difficult to decide upon what to cover and what to leave out, on any given day. A few days back, while searching for stories to include in our daily ‘Newsletter’ blogs, I stumbled about a piece that touched upon the growing trend of ‘VR in Healthcare’. It was quite a read and got me thinking.

Hitherto, movies like Her and Ex-Machina  showed us how AI could possibly fill up the growing emotional void, modern society is afflicted with. But Virtual Reality becoming a substitute – if not replacement – for traditional medicine is not just intriguing, but within our reach. I did a little more reading and found some stories that I thought is worth sharing with you all.

Virtual Reality helped save a baby born with half a heart

For baby Teegan, death seemed inevitable. Her parents, Cassidy and Chad Lexcen had lost all hope when Teegan was sent home with a hospice nurse. After two excruciating months, they met Dr. Redmond Burke who along with his colleague Dr. Muniz turned out be their saviors.

The Solution

Dr. Muniz initially tried getting a 3D print of little Teegan’s heart. When the printer broke, he used an app called Sketchfab to create a Virtual Reality model of the heart which could be viewed through Google Cardboard. Using the Virtual Reality model, the doctors then went on to move around and see Teegan’s ‘half heart’ from every possible angle. This ensured that there were no nasty surprises when they finally opened her chest to operate. Dr. Burke performed the new surgery – invented by him – that involved rerouting Teegan’s one ventricle so that it could effectively perform the task of a complete heart long term.

Four weeks after surgery, Teegan was off the ventilator. She is expected to make a full recovery.

‘Exposure Therapy’  with Virtual Reality

Now this one covers a  lot of areas. For starters, let me begin with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) in soldiers. PTSD is treated with what is called ‘VR exposure therapy’.

Managing PTSD

One method used by Professor Albert Rizzo, who works at the Institute of Modern Creative Technology, involves a simulated environment for the patient – most commonly war veterans/soldiers – in which a homemade device explodes in a certain place. This presumably triggers memories of the war the soldier has served and gives him the chance to recount the trauma that he has gone through. Stimulating a memory that a person would not want to talk about – under normal circumstances – through simulation of a similar environment, could help treat victims of sexual abuse and those who have undergone similar traumatic experiences much more effectively than traditional counselling.

Ridding Phobias too

Additionally, the same method can also be used to treat phobias. Instead of creating an environment, exposure therapy would make the patient meet something that instills fear. For instance, if someone suffers from stage fright, VR exposure therapy could help him deal with it by getting him to speak in front of a  ‘virtual audience’.

Treating Pain With Virtual Therapy

The article that piqued my interest in researching more on VR and how it is revolutionizing healthcare was about VR ‘overtaking’ Morphine as a preferred treatment for relieving pain. Morphine is used only in the most severe of cases. Such as post surgery or a broken arm. It basically numbs the area of pain. I wasn’t quite sure how could VR possibly upend that.

And then I read about SnowWorld, a virtual reality pain control environment designed to help burn patients.

Been There A While

I was surprised to learn that the first prototype of SnowWorld was completed way back in 2003. It has been updated multiple times since them. Burn victims fly through an icy 3D canyon throwing snowballs at snowmen, penguins and even wooly mammoths. The skeptic in me wasn’t convinced with the idea of a simulated utopian snow-clad land, relieving patients of their pain during surgery. The results tell a different story though.

A patient who had to undergo two procedures went through the first one while playing on a Nintendo console, and was given SnowWorld in VR for the second one. The distraction provided by SnowWorld reduced his level of pain much more than Nintendo!

Live Operation Streaming for Medical Interns With VR

Often, medical training is insufficient in not so developed countries. VR can fill the gap rather innovatively.  In fact, Dr. Shafi Ahmed performed the first surgery, that was broadcast live through virtual reality. Dr. Ahmed removed cancerous tissue from the bowel of the patient, a complicated procedure which not many interns/trainees would have been able to understand had it not been for VR.

Take A Look Yourself

Download the ‘VR in OR’ app to use on your smartphone, and you could see the process yourself!

As the technological world keeps throwing up possibilities that were inconceivable, even a decade back, we will continue covering more such marvels for you to deliberate upon. If you are curious about any specific development, do let us know in the comments below and we would love to cover it for you.

 

Gargi Sengupta

Gargi is working with Systweak Software as Content Editor and Strategist. She believes Technology laced with Pop Culture, makes for an interesting combination. Beyond her work space, she fancies herself as a left-brained, right leaning conscientious individual with a weakness for good food, films, and fiction.

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