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Virtual reality headsets are set to revolutionise surgery

In a medical first surgeons from around the world donned virtual reality headsets to jointly operate on a patient in London.  

Last week specialists from across the globe were able to view an operating table in real time and offer their expertise.

The technology, which remotely displays images and patient notes to oversea experts, could be available in hospitals within five years.

By creating medical avatars that move as if they were in the room, specialists are able to discuss any potential complications in real time, which may be particularly helpful during emergency procedures that cannot be considered in advance.

As well as providing surgeon reassurance, the technology is also thought to revolutionise patient safety.

In a first worldwide surgeons donned virtual reality headsets to jointly operate on a patient


A human-like 3D vertebrate that allows surgeons to practice life-saving spinal operations could be available next year, it emerged earlier this month.

The model is intended to increase doctor’s confidence at performing such procedures by allowing them to investigate patients’ spines in a risk-free environment before undergoing the operation, according to the researchers.

Patients should be assured their surgeon is aware of their specific ailment, with the model hopefully one day being able to be personalised to reflect people’s specific condition, such as osteoporosis or sports injuries, they add.

Joe Meeks from Nottingham Trent University, who is carrying out the research, told MailOnline: ‘From a patient’s perspective, a lot of mystery goes into surgery. They can be assured the surgeon knows what your spine looks and feels like. It gives the surgeon and patient confidence.

‘Surgeons will be much more confident because they’ve practiced these procedures before in a nice, safe environment where there’s no life or death situation.’ 

Gives surgeons reassurance and improves patient care 

‘Avatar experts’ from Mumbai and a private London hospital virtually joined Professor Shafi Ahmed at the Royal London Hospital on Thursday as he removed a patient’s bowel tumour.

The doctors saw each other moving as if they were in the same room and discussed the operation as it progressed.

They could also draw on scans hovering above the operation table and mention important information in the unnamed female patient’s notes. She is expected to be discharged today. 

The technology involves Microsoft’s Holoens, which are a pair of glasses with built-in sensors and speakers, and sell for £4,500.

Despite the procedure being relatively uncomplicated, Professor Ahmed said the reassurance from other experts that he was performing the operation correctly was helpful.

‘Virtual reality has incredible potential’

Professor Ahmed, who has been dubbed the virtual surgeon for his previous technology use, told The Times: ‘In other cases, more tricky or complex, we can imagine people giving advice would be very helpful.

‘Augmented and virtual reality have incredible potential, not only in the NHS but also to encourage collaboration to improve accessibility, equity and safety in developing countries.’

Although surgical teams discuss operations in advance to assess any potential difficulties, this is often not possible in emergency situations.

Surgeons can discuss procedures via Skype, however, Professor Ahmed believes the virtual reality technology is taking communication one step further to improve patient care. 

In 2014 Professor Ahmed wore Google Glasses that allowed students and members of the public to watch while he operated. He also founded the technology company Medical Realities that uses virtual reality to train doctors.  


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