Virtual Reality and the Future of Medicine

Virtual reality isn’t just about video games.The medical field is using it to advance practices, therapies and to improve diagnosis. The possibilities are still being explored within the medical field, but here are a few ways it’s being incorporated within the Bay Area and other regions today:

Surgical Training

Traditional training for surgeons usually involves cadavers and hands-on assistance with more experienced doctors. Whether one is an orthopedic surgeon in the Bay Area or an experienced knee doctor, there is still risk involved for the patients being treated during this time of training. Virtual reality provides a way of training doctors while minimizing risk to real patients.  This is especially helpful for a first-responder, or those responsible for handling emergencies. With virtual environments, a series of scenarios can be replicated to give the trainees a variety of practice. This is integral to their decision making skills, especially when under pressure.

Places in the Bay Area like Stanford University incorporate this into their training. They have surgery simulators that provide haptic feedback trainees. It has the ability to create CT scans from patients that can be converted into 3D models for practice.  

Phantom Limb Pain

People who have lost a limb often suffer from phantom limb pain. For example, someone missing a leg might experience a feeling of pain in their knee of the absent leg. A knee doctor in the Bay Area may recommend treatments and mirror therapy where a patient will look at their limb in a mirror and find relief as the brain readjusts to the movements of the body. Frontiers in Neuroscience published a study that revealed the role virtual reality games play in alleviating phantom limb pain.

Pain Management

Pain is a constant problem for burn victims. Doctors are trying distraction therapy through virtual reality to help them manage the pain. The University of Washington created a virtual reality game that involved snowball fights and music. This gaming treatment helped to diminish the affect of tasks that were extremely painful. One study found that this therapy worked even better than morphine.

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