It’s not a video game: Your next surgery may be done through Virtual Reality.

There are upwards of 70 million surgeries in the United States each year. While many are somewhat safe — knee replacement, open-heart surgery, gall bladder and organ removals– a large number are extremely risky and depend upon the skills and confidence of the surgeon. Surgical Theater is a leader in pioneering the use of Virtual Reality in the actual surgical theater. By bringing in new leadership who pioneered the use of VR in aviation the adoption of Virtual reality use in surgical settings is now accelerating.

How does it work?

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While the YouTube video portrays the VR “view”, the real magic is the actual process of how it is applied. Surgical Theater’s Virtual Reality and Image Guidance extends into the operating room. Coupled with intra-operative navigation systems, Surgical Theater’s platforms provide dynamic visualization capabilities in real time, allowing surgeons to perform a real-time “fly-through” of the surgical pathway, establish multiple views, and rotate and interact with the navigation image.

Why is this hot? Bottom line? The surgeon “performs” a highly difficult surgery before they actually do it.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year, Virtual Reality got a lot of press and buzz. But beyond gaming and the marvel of the sheer immersive experience, the use of it for doctors is another ripple of the wave of digital innovation that will allow for more accurate surgery, better outcomes, and happier patients. After all, if you had a rare brain tumor, you would want the surgeon not to use an old CT scan or MRI, but a 3D ‘experience’ – no guess work, identify the exact tumor within millimeters.

As one doctor aptly put it: (Dr. John G. Golfinos): “The Surgical Theater system was crucial in determining whether an endoscopic approach to this tumor would be possible. With this technology, we were able to distinguish the tumor from the surrounding ventricles. Using the Surgical Theater system, we planned our surgical corridor and endoscopic approach which enabled a much safer and effective resection of the entire tumor”.

Human-speak? The doctor walked into that surgery confident and with a much smaller margin of error.

3D Printing pushes the boundary by creating an entire rib cage

What can’t a 3D Printer do? A 54-year old Spanish man suffering from cancer — chest wall carcinoma it is called — had to have his entire rib cage removed as part of his treatment. But instead of a debilitated and crippled patient, the surgical team had another answer. The Spanish medical team sent his CT scan to a 3D-printing company called Anatomics in Australia.

Here is the story as told on the Doctor’s Channel and YouTube:

Why is this hot? As with so many technologies that are moving from concept to reality, 3D Printing has been a topic of high expectation and wide discussion in healthcare — when will it print skin, organs, how far can we take it? The other trend here is the globalization of healthcare. The digital revolution of communication allows for nearly instant connection between teams that may have never been able to benefit each other — let alone a patient!

Anatomics makes so many types of body implants, replacements, enhancements, it is like looking at the GE of 3D Printing.

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True, there is a Frankenstein question that one has to ask: how many of my body parts will end up being replaced as I age or get sick? But if you are the patient laying there wondering what life will be like, whether you will have a life at all, a manufactured set of ribs made in Australia seems like a moment of light in the darkness. In the end, all healthcare advances are the advancement of hope.