Recently, the world learned in a very graphic way that virtual reality technology goes far beyond games. We learned that even the most basic VR setup can be pivotal to saving a person’s life.
Dr. Redmond Burke, director of cardiovascular surgery for the Heart Program at the Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, used a Google Cardboard to get a three dimensional image of a baby’s heart that helped him prepare for very difficult surgery.
Teegan Lexcen of Minnesota was born with only one lung and an incompletely-formed heart. One of a pair of twins, she was not expected to live long. However, when she actually did survive a few months, her parents sensed a glimmer of hope and contacted the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.
Doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami used a Google app Sketchfab to look at MRI scans of Teegan’s chest. The immersive virtual reality image allowed the doctors to see her heart from every possible angle, helping them to plan a strategy to reach the organ without having to do an a clamshell incision, which entails a midline incision plus another cut going from the centre of her chest all the way to the far left side of her chest.
Sketchfab is a platform for publishing and sharing 3D content. Users can upload files in most 3D formats; Sketchfab supports 28 different formats.
In the past Dr. Redmond Burke and his team used 3D printed models of organs to plan surgeries, but this time the printer was out of order and the doctors eventually hit on the idea of using virtual reality images instead after one of them had a discussion about the use of virtual reality technology in surgery.
Dr.Burke told ABC News that seeing the heart in a 3D virtual image was an epiphany. Dr. Burke and his team worked for hours on Teegan to preliminary repair work on her heart. She will need more surgery in the future. Dr. Burke credits the Google Cardboard with helping him to navigate a very complicated operation.