It may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but virtual reality is being used more and more to help doctors and patients to get a better look at how heart disease affects the body. Thanks to projects like the one at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, the ability to see and examine a beating heart in three dimensions is a reality.
Programs such as Stanford’s don’t just allow you to see healthy child’s beating heart, but also virtual hearts affected by dozens of congenital heart defects. This can give both parents and their children a better understanding of their specific condition, and is also a powerful teaching tool for future doctors.
An Intimate View
Virtual reality may never replace critical tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the CT scan or echocardiogram, but the doctors and engineers working on the Stanford VR system say other virtual reality programs could use that data to create a VR copy of a child’s heart in the coming years.
Being able to examine and manipulate a 3-D image of the heart in virtual space may give an edge to doctors creating a child’s heart disease treatment plan. The ability to virtually interact with a specific child’s heart is also a benefit to surgeons when preparing for a procedure.
A Tool for Teaching
In Stanford’s VR system, you don’t just get an up-close look at a beating heart, but one where each part is labeled. You can remove outer layers to get a look inside as the heart continues its beating. This level of detail is a powerful teaching tool for doctors undergoing specialist training in the use of child heart disease treatments.