Virtual reality (VR) technology presents a great deal of potential for medical advances, specifically in terms of planning surgeries and educating others. You might think that the industry is still years away from being used in this way, but it has in fact already been used to save the life of a young baby in Minnesota, USA. A doctor in Miami used a Google Cardboard mobile-based head-mounted display (HMD) in order to plan a procedure to help Teegan Lexcen.
Teegan was born in August 2015 with just one lung and a large part of her heart missing. CNN reports that, after reading about innovative paediatric surgeon Dr. Redmond Burke from the Nicklaus Childen’s Hosptial in Miami, parents Cassidy and Chad Lexcen got in touch with the hospital, sending pictures of Teegan’s heart. Originally, Burke planned to build a 3D model of the heart with a 3D printer to plan possible treatment. However, when the 3D printer broke Burke instead used a 3D virtual model using the Google Cardboard and Sketchfab, an app that allows for the creation and display of 3D models in VR.
With planning out of the way, Burke operated on Teegan on 10th December, when she was just four months old. Thanks to his work with Google Cardboard, Burke was able to make a specific incision that placed less trauma on the baby. The HMD was used again when Burke developed a new surgery to reroute the one ventricle Teegan’s heart has to allow it to do the work of the two that a normal heart has. The operation went down as a success and Teegan is expected to make a full recovery, returning home to her twin sister, Riley, within the next week and a half.
This is easily the best example of VR being used for medical applications yet and shows much promise for the tech’s future, especially when hospitals and surgeons will have access to more advanced HMDs such as the Oculus Rift and more innovate control schemes like Oculus Touch. VRFocus will continue to follow any and all uses of VR, reporting back with the latest.
UPDATE: This article states that Sktetchfab is an app that allows for the creation of 3D models. This is incorrect; the software is actually a platform primarily used for viewing these models. VRFocus apologises for the confusion.