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Virtual reality used in heart surgery for first time

vr in surgery

A surgeon in Warsaw has used a virtual reality (VR) headset during live heart surgery for the first time. 

In recent years, VR has been used in training but this procedure by the team at the Institute of Cardiology was the first to use it on a live patient.

Google Glasses

The team used a combination of VR and Google Glass in the procedure to reopen a chronically blocked right coronary artery. 

The surgery usually involves inserting a balloon and stent into the artery, using live X-rays to guide the surgeon. 

The VR was used to specifically fix a ‘chronic total occlusion’. 

This is a difficult procedure as surgeons have problems visualising the occluded coronary arteries using the X-ray method. 

A method called coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA) - a non-invasive method using more powerful X-rays to provide images of the very narrow arteries - is usually used in these situations. 

In the Warsaw surgery, the surgeons were able to get the CTA images projected on to the Google Glass. 

Cost and technology

While the combined expense of the VR and CTA technology still limits their viability, it is hoped that as the price of VR comes down it could be adopted by a wider audience. 

Lead investigator Dr. Maksymilian P. Opolski says this method enables better planning and guidance during the procedures. 

The new technology, which was designed at the University of Warsaw, also includes hands-free voice recognition systems and a zoom function. 

The heart surgery was classed as a success. 

Dr. Opolski believes wearable computers could be a positive boost for interventional cardiologists in their daily activities. 

The report was published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.


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