Orthopedic surgeons at the European Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris recently used a head mounted GoPro Dual Hero system during hip surgery to capture a stereotactic 3D video that they could then load into a virtual reality system, such as the Oculus Rift. The whole purpose: to improve the quality of surgical training and make trainees – your future surgeons – better at what they do.
Virtual reality in medical training: helping future surgeons get a better view
Medical training, particularly for surgeons, is an apprenticeship. Surgeons-in-training (residents) work closely with fully trained surgeons as they learn their craft, often standing at their side assisting them in the operating room. However, it’s typically a fully qualified physician that is the primary surgeon, and thus has the best view of the procedure. Residents, on the other hand, typically stand next to the primary surgeon, craning their necks to get a first hand view of how to perform a procedure.
This is where virtual reality comes in. The first potential use of virtual reality is simulating operating room environments and providing trainees the perspective of the primary surgeon. This allows trainees a much better view of the surgical field – a view they otherwise rarely get – and thus a more appropriate perspective. When watching the video displayed in the Oculus Rift, one can get the same view of the surgery as the primary surgeon performing the procedure. In fact, using positional tracking, if the Oculus Rift wearer turns their head, the immersive 3D scene correspondingly changes to impart a very lifelike experience.
In this video, Dr. Thomas Gregory and his colleagues describe their work with virtual reality.
Aside from routine surgical environments, virtual reality simulations can be used to refine and practice trainees’ skills and performance in response to medical emergencies – from unexpected surgical complications to catastrophic equipment or power failures.
Broadcasting live surgeries around the world
In addition, the system being developed by Dr. Gregory and his colleagues will have the ability to broadcast live surgery to any Oculus Rift user. As such, medical trainees from any location around the world can have the opportunity to observe procedures in a 3D, immersive environment. More importantly, such a system can also allow fully trained surgeons the opportunity to hone their skills by learning new techniques in a simulated environment.
Does all of this sound familiar? It should – commercial pilots have been undergoing simulated training for many years. In fact, commercial pilots may spend over three weeks training on a simulator before flying in a new aircraft such as the Boeing Dreamliner. Ultimately, virtual reality may play a similarly important role in medical training, certification, and continuing education.
So how real is the Oculus Rift’s 3D immersion? Will it provide surgeons the type of experience they need for their medical training? I have not haven’t had a chance to use the Oculus Rift yet, but this video certainly seems to suggest the experience is lifelike enough.