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Do Surgeons Use Virtual Reality?

With each passing year, more and more technological advancements are being introduced to the population. Because a large chunk of the tech that is made available for public and private consumption is widely entertainment-based, not a lot of people realize the value of these inventions. One example is VR technology.

Lots of people have long associated VR or virtual reality tech with leisure activities – primarily with video gaming. Unbeknownst to many, there are other applications to virtual reality sciences that can prove beneficial in many day-to-day activities. More importantly, VR systems are continuously being modified for usage in many professional industries.

One such example is the implementation of virtual reality in the medical field. It has been observed for some time now how the use of artificially generated environments has helped in training and expanding the skill set of surgeons everywhere. This begs the question, what is VR or virtual reality? And how can it be helpful in the medical field?

Virtual reality explained

Objects, scenes, and environments that are generated by computers and are designed to provide users with realistic and immersive experiences are referred to as virtual reality. In order to participate in a virtual reality activity, individuals are asked to wear a headset or helmet designed for the simulation.

The moment the device is worn, participants can explore, immerse, and perform certain tasks in the generated computer reality. As mentioned previously, numerous virtual scenarios are designed for gaming purposes. However, aside from this, individuals can as well practice and improve their sporting skills, or even practice heart surgeries to improve on procedural techniques.

Although fairly futuristic and something out of a sci-fi novel, the tech is not entirely a new concept as many are led to believe. In fact, the early origins of computer simulation devices can be traced to the Sensorama, a seat created to play 3D movies while setting off vibrations and emitting odors to create a vivid watching experience. It is said that this ingenious piece of machinery was first developed in the 1950s. From then on, further developments were made to improve the interface and of course the software of VR tech.

Primary applications of virtual reality

Now that we understand what virtual reality is or the basics of how it works, it’s time to get into its most common applications. And which sectors in the industry have benefited from the use of virtual reality software.

Other than the obvious use of computer generated simulations for gaming, VR technology has been applied to various other industries. In the sports arena, virtual reality has been revolutionizing the way players, their coaches, and even how avid fans get to enjoy their favorite team or event. Team coaches can use the technology to efficiently train players across a variety of sports. Furthermore, the advancement allows both coaches and sporting athletes to playback or experience certain situations as often as they want for the purpose of improving their game. In essence, it can be used to drastically improve performance as well as study the techniques of each team member and the opponent.

When it comes to education, virtual reality has many uses as well. A common tool in the military industry or the medical field, VR can extend its usefulness in schools. This is particularly useful during situations when traditional classes cannot be held.

Through this setup, students and their educators can interact with each other and conduct regular classes. Additionally, schools can conduct virtual trips to museums, aquariums, and other field trips without having to leave school premises or homes. Studies have also shown how virtual reality has been deemed useful in helping students with special needs.

On the same note, simulated training has been highly instrumental in allowing young as well as senior surgeons to practice complicated surgical procedures. Not only is it an effective way for physicians to improve their skills, but it is also an efficient way to study and plan an upcoming surgery.

The overall benefits of virtual reality in the medical industry

For the longest time, surgeons have been practicing on either dummies, animals, or cadavers. To get additional training, there are instances when inexperienced surgical practitioners are asked to either watch or assist in an operation performed by a senior surgical resident. Perhaps the biggest downside of this technique is the insufficient practice hours available. Thanks to virtual reality, surgeons are now able to perform even the most complicated surgeries at a lower risk.

Regularly honing one’s surgical skills, even something as simple as taking the time to practice suturing is vital especially for those who are surgical physicians. Besides relearning the basics, surgeons benefit immensely from virtual reality activities because it allows them to study all possible scenarios that could occur during a major operation. Furthermore, computer generated simulations permit surgeons to figure out the best solutions should any issues arise during the procedure.

Whenever virtual reality devices are present in healthcare facilities, it allows doctors and medical staff the opportunity to properly educate patients by walking them through their condition, the outcome when left untreated, and its corresponding treatment procedures.

Surgeons can also encourage patients in need of physical therapy to utilize augmented reality techniques. Doing so eliminates the need for patients to commute to hospitals to receive their treatment. Conversely, it is also advantageous for facilities to be equipped with simulations for therapists to utilize on their patients. VR tech is a great tool to use for pain management, physical and physiological therapy according to studies that are conducted regularly on it.

With so many uses, one would expect all medical institutions to carry virtual reality machinery. Nonetheless, there are still countless who are reluctant to integrate this advancement into their system. Undeniably, with every innovation comes a few setbacks to accompany its benefits. 

The drawbacks to using virtual reality in medicine

A lot of people will easily ignore drawbacks over the many benefits of a new technique or tool. However, when it comes to the field of medicine it is always crucial to weigh out both the pros and cons to ensure that the healthcare workers and the patients do not suffer from any negative effects of using a new system.

Virtual reality has many benefits to surgeons and of course the patients who are at the receiving end of treatments. That said, there are downsides to using this piece of advancement. To start, virtual reality devices and software do not come cheap. Adding it to a hospital or clinic’s armory can be quite costly. Some users have also hinted at experiencing some dependency on these augmented realities. It can cause addiction, and even disorientation when used incorrectly. Adding virtual reality equipment will also require additional training which can take up time and other resources. At the end of the day, however, there are still so many benefits to using VR in the medical industry. Many believe that the presence of these benefits will out shadow the few disadvantages, especially in the long run.

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