How can virtual reality help neurosurgery? When it comes to practicing surgery, the medical world allows for two options: operating on cadavers or going over the procedure in a theoretical way before actually touching a patient. But is this enough practice for a surgeon? Is there a better way to get familiarized with a procedure or to sharpen your cutting skills? Today Dr. Louis joins Dr. Rosie Sendher and Dr. Erica Fisk to talk about a virtual reality software that has changed the way he operates on his neuro patients since it allows him to practice on a model of their exact anatomy before going into the procedure. Patient confidence and precision during these surgeries have rocketed since the implementation of these technologies, he says. Imagine being able to show your patients an extraordinarily exact model of their brains to help them understand their affliction or being able to try different approaches to the surgery beforehand on a model.

Dr. Robert Louis is a board-certified neurosurgeon specializing in minimally invasive brain and skull-base tumor surgery as well as complex spine pituitary surgery. He is currently practicing at the Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach California where he uses virtual reality to figure out the best way and most minimally invasive manner to operate on his patients.

We’ve seen virtual reality and augmentation come and go through the years, could this be the technology that surpasses the threshold of trendy gadgets and stays? Will it survive the Gartner hype cycle and become the norm for neurosurgery? Tune in to know more about how this technology can bring immense changes to the way medics learn and continue to operate.

In this episode we chat about:

  • (01:08) - Who is Dr. Robert Louis and an introduction to the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality - “Virtual reality is a fully immersive experience where the user leaves the real-world environment behind to enter a fully digital environment via virtual reality headsets.”
  • (02:54) - How it all started: Using VR to help surgeons practice - “With the surgeon using virtual reality to rehearse on that specific patient's anatomy it led to a change in the surgical plan, nearly 25% of the time, which is pretty remarkable.”
  • (05:48) - 3 reasons why we are now able to perform truly minimally invasive surgery - “I needed to take out a tumor in the frontal lobe, I had to remove most of the frontal bone to get there cause I wouldn't be able to tell exactly where it would be until I opened the skull. Now, if I've got a virtual reality rehearsal, I know exactly.”
  • (07:55) - How VR can increase patient confidence, satisfaction, and retention - “This narrows the knowledge gap between physicians and patients so that you're kind of giving them a crash course in neuroanatomy.”
  • (12:30) - The advantages of having all the images in one model - “The co-founders took that same technology from flight simulation and adopted it to brain surgery. So not only does it allow a very accurate three-dimensional reconstruction of the patient's images from the die coms, you can add in multiple layers.”
  • (14:26) - Is this technology here to stay or will it dissolve like other trends? - “The gateways to these technologies lie during the training and early development years, where people are looking for things to enhance their training.”
  • (20:31) - Getting practical: How to incorporate VR into your practice - “There is a little bit of a learning curve, but the ability to repeatedly practice a procedure is unparalleled.”
  • (27:40) - Slowly moving into different standards: Adoption of technology in the medical field - “The number one hurdle is just inertia, essentially people not wanting to change the way they do things.”
  • (38:52) - How to make this available for hospitals and other applications for this technology - “As far as from a business of your practice you'll be growing your practice through better patient retention and conversion.”

Resources :

Skill by Christopher S. Ahmad

Reimagining Brain Surgery with VR

Surgical Theater

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