The return of the operating theatre – Surgery goes VR

by borne . April 14, 2016

The operating theatre was so dubbed because it was not just a place where surgery happened, but it was a place where medical students could view procedures and be taught away from the safety of the text book or practice room.

 

Surgeons could use the operating theatre to perform real procedures while, at the same time, explain to students about the process and answer any questions which came along.

 

The practice has largely since stopped but today a little bit of medical and VR history is about to be made.

 

World’s first VR Surgery – the future of medical training?

 

Today, medical students from around the world (as well as other interested parties) will be able to view the world’s first VR surgery broadcast live from The Royal London Hospital. Dr. Shafi Ahmed who will perform the surgery is no stranger to technology having used Google Glass before to show aspects of an operation from a surgeon’s perspective.

 

He also believes that this current swathe of technology can help to bridge a learning gap, especially in the developing world where he (and other doctors) could take classes remotely and help students have visual access to procedures that they might not otherwise have had.

 

As live streaming of content becomes more accessible and widespread it is perhaps unsurprising that the medical world has joined the party (if one can call it that). However, especially with something as life and death as surgery that there could be some serious issues developing down the line. After all, once something is on the internet it is very difficult to remove it.

 

Dr Ahmed acknowledges this however saying that: “The operation isn’t very risky, but if there’s a major complication I’ll stop [the stream] immediately,” he says. “But it’s also important that people who are training in medicine see problems. There is not perfect operation, ever. If we have some complications, you have to see how to deal with them.”

 

There will also be a one minute time lag on the stream to be on the safe side. However, if successful, and if VR surgery takes off (and there is no reason why it cannot work and be beneficial to the international medical world) there may well come a time when something live cannot be prevented.

 

The future marches on

 

As medicine is known for its experimentation and adaptation of new technologies in order to advance it is likely that VR and other modern technologies are here to stay.

 

VR is certainly a technology of the future today and with technology powerhouses like Google and Facebook investing so much time and effort into VR it looks unlikely that this will be a fad. It may not be for everyone but such innovative spirit as shown by Dr Ahmed shows that there is so much more to these new technologies than entertainment.