VR helps Houston Methodist docs, patients ‘see’ brain surgery

Imaging technology is enabling patients to “preview” complex neurological procedures and surgical treatment plans.

Houston Methodist Hospital is using virtual reality technology that combines jet fighter flight simulation technology with a patient’s own anatomy scans, using medical imaging such as MRIs, CT scans and from diffusion tensor imaging to create a three-dimensional visual image of the brain.

Virtual reality headsets enable neurosurgeons, as well as patients and their family members, to “tour” the patient’s pathology. Medical professionals at Houston Methodist say the immersive experience helps them by providing intraoperative visualization and navigation during complex surgical procedures.

The technology, called Precision VR from Surgical Theater, offers the capability throughout the enterprise, enabling wide use by neurosurgeons throughout the organization.

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Executives say the use of the VR technology facilitates shared decision making and better comprehension of medical conditions by patients and family members.

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"Surgical Theater allows us to get a view of the pathology before a procedure, and it allows the patients and families to also see what will happen," said Gavin Britz, MD, chairman of neurosurgery and director of the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute. "This adds to our toolbox of innovative technology we use for the benefit of our patients."

During clinical consultations with Precision VR, the physician can take the patients on a tour of their own anatomical structure. For example, the doctor and the patient are standing with the artery to their right, the vessels to their left, then can observe the tumor that will operated upon.

Houston Methodist executives say the technology provides a unique way to communicate the pathology and condition, the treatment options, treatment plan, the risks and benefits, and may aid in obtaining patient consent for procedures.

"We are very proud that our technology facilitates meaningful physician-to-patient engagement resulting in enhanced patient understanding, superior experience and satisfaction," says Moty Avisar, CEO and co-founder of Mayfield Village, Ohio-based Surgical Theater.

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