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Could Virtual, Augmented Reality Augment Medicine?

By MedPage Today  
   March 31, 2017

Neil Martin, MD, neuroscience director at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania; Hunter Hoffman, PhD, a cognitive psychology research scientist with the University of Washington; and Hartholt demonstrated and spoke about their work with augmented and virtual reality for:

  • Simulated brain surgery
  • Distracting burn victims from feeling pain during typically painful procedures by placing them in a virtual world
  • Exposure therapy to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders

Augmented and virtual reality can help train residents and students, connect experts with medical personnel in the field or operating room ("like a 3-D reconstruction of telemedicine," Murthi said), and rehearse procedures on simulated patients as opposed to live ones, these exhibitors said. They can also be leveraged to help patients understand treatment options.

Take the work of Murthi and Amitabh Varshney, PhD, a computer science professor at Maryland. Murthi and colleague Caron Hong, MD, demonstrated how augmented reality can be applied to ultrasounds and intubation. While Murthi showed how to view ultrasound data directly on the Maryland student-turned-patient without having to turn away, Hong coached volunteers as they donned large goggles and peered into a portioned medical dummy (head and neck only) via an inserted intubation tube to view the inside of a dummy trachea.

In practice, the goggles allow multiple people to see the same image without breaking communication or adjusting their head—critical in trauma centers, Hong said. The technologies should allow practitioners to multitask more efficiently in trauma centers, while merely adding one piece to established medical practices. (And not replacing practitioners, Murthi said.)


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