Technology Allows 360-Degree Views of Tumors Before Procedure

MRI and CT have been the standard imaging technology used to map out a two-dimensional preoperative plan for patients undergoing neurosurgery. The George Washington University Hospital takes neurosurgery planning a step further by adopting advanced medical visualization, specifically Precision Virtual Reality®️ by Surgical Theater, for not only surgical mapping but also providing valuable patient education and training for future neurosurgeons.

Cutting-Edge Imaging Technology for Intricate Procedures

Virtual reality technology performs rapid 3D reconstruction of CT and MRI, and can rotate, scale, segment, fuse and perform other reconstructed imaging tasks. The visualization tool gives surgeons the unique opportunity to envision brain and spinal tumors from different angles before an operation.

“We operate in three dimensions, and it only makes sense to view structures and pathways in the same way before surgery,” says Wayne J. Olan, MD, director of minimally invasive and endovascular neurosurgery at GW Medical Faculty Associates/GW Hospital and associate professor of radiology and neurosurgery at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “VR puts us in the position to plan efficient, safe, successful procedures. With VR, we can see the pathology and experience a potential therapy in the exact dimensions where we are going to perform it.”

Benefits of Virtual Reality in Neurosurgery

GW Hospital is proud to be one of the first in the area to utilize the Precision Virtual Reality platform in our neurological center. The platform includes several products, including Surgical Planner, the Precision VR Viewer, the Surgical Navigation Advanced Platform and the VR Studio, and provides numerous benefits in the world of neurosurgery. Some include:

Shorter Operations

Familiarity with a surgical plan helps cut down on time spent in the operating room. Additionally, neurosurgeons who practice pre-op may increase efficiency and subsequently decrease the length of surgeries.”

Reduced Complications

Surgeons who have a better 3D understanding of certain structures in relation to a tumor may be able to reduce common surgical complications.

Patient Education

Through the use of the Precision VR Viewer, patients understand more about their medical condition and can preview their upcoming surgery. During a preliminary clinic visit, patients wear a headset to navigate a 360-degree visual reconstruction of their central nervous system. Michael Rosner, MD, program director of neurosurgery residency and professor of neurosurgery at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, explains how VR benefits his patients.

“When viewing MRI images, patients didn’t always get the full picture of their condition and procedure,” Dr. Rosner says. “When you give patients a model, suddenly they can visualize their brain, the tumor, and all the blood vessels and nerves wrapped around it. We’ve found that by involving patients in this way, they typically are better psychologically prepared for the procedure and have more realistic expectations for recovery.”

Educating Prospective Surgeons

GW Hospital is an academic medical center that helps train the future generation of physicians. Virtual reality allows medical residents to get a fully immersive, pre-op look at surgery without needing to sit in on the procedure. According to a recent study published in BMC Medical Education, VR technology was shown to be a promising tool to improve neurosurgical skull base teaching quality. Future studies should be done to show the advantages of virtual reality in clinical training.

“VR technology is still new,” Dr. Olan says. “Technological advances to come may include applying texture and feeling to the immersive technology. Surgeons may one day be able to experience the changes and density in objects to provide a more realistic experience. Adapting this technology demonstrates our commitment to excellence and innovation in our medical center.”

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