Virtual reality is not only used in games, slots online or movies, as many people think. Today, VR technology comes to the aid of people in many fields: space, education, medicine, and other industries. Let us tell you how virtual simulators help medical professionals carry out various processes, including training students.
Virtual reality (virtual reality, VR) – a virtual world that creates a complete illusion of presence using the human senses: touch, hearing, sight. In this case, virtual reality is able to simulate both actions and reactions to them. The user experiences gravitation, properties of various substances (water, sand, etc.), impact force, etc., feeling all this in a completely real way, just like in life.
Special helmets, goggles, suits, gloves, and monitors are used for immersion in the virtual world. For a long time VR technology, originally created for the entertainment industry – computer games and movies, is actively used in other areas. They are also very useful for medicine.
Simulators for Teaching Students and Surgeons
Virtual simulators have recently been widely used for the training of students in various medical departments. This can be an individual or group exercise – for example, for several surgeons performing an operation. VR simulators can also be used to teach ultrasound, endoscopy, and other diagnostic procedures. At the same time, simulators reproduce the reaction of the real body in a normal environment or under extreme conditions. The convenience of such simulators for learning is also that at any moment the teacher can interrupt the action, point out the mistake of the student, discuss the results, to make as many repetitions of manipulation, as required.
This is especially important for future surgeons. The simulator simulates a variety of situations that require quick decision-making, precise manipulation, and other skills necessary for the practitioner. By learning through virtual technology, the future specialist gets a powerful practice that is comparable to the real thing.
Simulators for surgery come in two types:
- 3D computer-based. The student interacts with virtual equipment and the patient using the mouse and keyboard;
- virtual 3D. After the trainee puts on a VR helmet, he will find himself in the operating room, in which he must proceed to the specified actions. Special controllers allow to recreate any actions: take instruments, make cuts, stitching, and other manipulations.
It is no doubt that the use of such simulators greatly increases the level of training of future surgeons. Previously, when students had to conduct anatomy classes on dead people, their practice was severely limited. Modern simulators offer many advantages:
- Maximum immersion through complete realism.
- The ability to conduct classes in a regular classroom setting.
- No need to use medical supplies and instruments.
- Practicing the most complex operations without endangering the patient’s life.
- Medical VR simulators are widely used for the training of medical students all over the world.
Online Broadcasting of Surgery
In 2016, the Royal London Hospital performed an operation to remove a cancerous tumor using VR technology, which was streamed to 13,000 medical students. The surgeon was wearing Google Glass VR glasses. Viewers watched his actions and asked questions while the surgery was being broadcast. Professor Shafi Ahmed saw them in the peripheral window of the glasses and answered them verbally.
The use of virtual reality glasses helps specialists receive all the information about the condition of the operated patient in real-time. For example, employees from Duke University (USA) have created Hololens glasses. A surgeon puts them on, and they transmit CT data to the patient’s head during brain surgery. This allows the doctor to see where his instrument is located.
VR Simulator With Cardiovascular Simulation
This is a human-sized mannequin with the human cardiovascular system recreated to the smallest detail. It is designed to train future cardiac surgeons. The colored liquid is injected into the blood vessels, and various parameters can be set: to lower or raise the blood pressure, to increase the heart rate, to create anomalies in the circulatory system. The doctor performs the necessary manipulations with the heart, uses instruments, administers medications. All actions are reflected on the monitor, as well as showing the dummy’s reaction to the intervention and even the individual perception of different medications.
VR for the Treatment of Dementia, Mental Disorders, and Lesions of the Nervous System
Another direction of VR technology for use in medicine is the emergence of simulators that create a virtual world for patients with disabilities and mental disorders.
For example, the company Virtual Relief has developed glasses for those suffering from senile dementia – dementia. This is a severe disease that affects people around the patient. An elderly person with dementia finds it difficult to navigate in the surrounding space and remember new information. A virtual reality game is created for these patients, which allows them to train their memory, do planning exercises, and other things that make the brain work.
There is also a simulator for treating paranoid disorders. The patient puts on a helmet and finds himself in an enclosed space – such as an elevator – in which new people gradually enter. The patient learns not to panic in an enclosed space with strangers. A decrease in paranoid symptoms was noted in 20% of the subjects after such sessions.
Phobia and Fear Treatment
Virtual simulators will help with manifestations of fear and various phobias or at least reduce their degree. For example, many people are afraid of surgery under local anesthesia. Psychological stress, fear, and the sight of blood can put a patient in a state of shock, causing a sharp increase in blood pressure, which is undesirable during surgery. Doctors in Mexico already used virtual reality glasses as additional anesthesia: during the doctors’ manipulations, the patient watched funny movies and was not distracted by the process.
Virtual Reality Anesthesia
An interesting idea for the use of VR technology in medicine was suggested by the American psychologist Hunter Hoffman. Virtual anesthesia with the help of a winter landscape – this is the idea put forward by the professor. Experiments conducted on burn patients have shown that the sight of cold snow deceives the patients’ brains, reducing pain sensations. Such 3D glasses were used during dressing changes to blunt painful sensations.
Virtual technology is helping to greatly expand the possibilities in the field of medicine, both in terms of training and therapy. Leading electronics developers are constantly improving VR technology to achieve great results.