Cardiologist Use VR To Visualise Heart Defects

There are a number of applications for virtual reality (VR) in the medical field. Many of which are tied to training of medical students, or  involving new ways to map and visualise medical conditions, which can often be complex. This application combines both.

At Lucile Packard Children’s hospital, Stanford paediatric cardiologist David Axelrod is able to use a VR simulation to model heart defects in patients. These VR models can be used as learning tools for trainee surgeons, or to show patients and families the ins and outs of the medical condition.

The VR applications currently has over fifteen heart models, which are used for instruction on heart anatomy and congenital heart defects. These models are used in 22 medical centres all over the world, including the University of Michigan.

“We built the hearts as prototypical congenital heart models based on a number of different patients, but each one is like a classical model of whatever heart defect it is depicting,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod hopes that the use of these VR models will expand into new areas and integrate them into the curriculum at Stanford, where the models are already in limited use. Axelrod also said that there are plans to upgrade the application from a model to a full educational experience.

Recently, the team behind the application have implemented a camera application that lets users take, save and export photos that show a heart both before and after surgery. Axelrod is envisioning more educational features could be added to the app over the next few months.

“If you’re able to train medical trainees more effectively on procedures that involve risk without actually having any real risk to a patient, then you’re going to get better outcomes in all areas in healthcare.” said David Sarno, founder of VR firm Lighthaus Inc. Axelrod partnered with Lighthaus to develop the models.

For future coverage of new and innovative uses for VR technology, keep checking back with VRFocus.