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Patient wears VR headset to map brain during surgery

VR is helping doctors monitor patients in the operating room.
Billy Steele
02.17.16 in Medicine
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David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Virtual reality is becoming increasingly useful when it comes to the medical field, and doctors in France have taken notice. At Angers University Hospital in western France, physicians used a VR headset to map a patient's brain during surgery to remove a tumor late last month. The patient was conscious during the procedure (a common practice) in which doctors used a virtual environment to map zones of the brain. Until now, said mapping and monitoring neural connections in certain areas weren't easily achieved in the operating room.

"By totally controlling what the patient sees and hears, we can put him in situations that allow us to do tests on certain connections that were not possible before," neurosurgeon Philippe Menei explained.

In this particular case, it was important for doctors to carefully monitor the patient's vision as the tumor had already affected sight in one eye. To keep tabs the brain's reactions, the surgical team created a virtual environment without a single point of focus, choosing instead to employ "luminous objects" in the patients peripheral vision. The results were positive as the patient's sight remains intact in the weeks following surgery despite the tumor's location. In fact, the doctors are planning to use the setup in the future for similar cases where tumors are impacting the region of the brain that controls sight.

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