Image: Refined virtual reality systems are expected to help overcome the limitations of advanced surgery procedures in the future (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock).
Over the next few years, the market for virtual reality technologies in healthcare could reach almost USD 1 billion dollars as the use of refined virtual reality systems can help overcome the limitations of advanced surgery procedures. These are the latest findings of Kalorama Information, (New York, NY, USA), an independent medical market research firm.
The principles and technologies of Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have already been introduced into surgical navigation, RAS, and radiotherapy systems. They usually find application in the utilization of pre- and intra-operative medical imaging for constructing simulations or models of patient anatomy for the navigation of surgical instruments, intra-operative segmentation, labeling of key anatomical structures, or targeted delivery of radiation. However, navigation, RAS and radiotherapy platform vendors are yet to incorporate VR/AR headsets or fully immersive qualities into their systems. Nevertheless, a number of surgical platforms are already incorporating capabilities analogous to VR and AR technology and are moving closer to AR image injection and more interactive and immersive virtual models.
According to Kalorama, there are four reasons why virtual reality is required in surgery:
Laparoscopy and endoscopy are performed without the natural line of sight for the surgeon available in open surgery. The small incisions and reliance on endoscopic or laparoscopic feeds limit surgeons to a narrow visual frame of reference.
Surgical navigation or image-guided surgery (IGS) systems already utilize virtual models for navigation and to guide surgical intervention. However, in some cases, they are limited by the resolution or parameters of the virtual environment (VE), whether two-dimensional (2D) images or lack of segmentation.
Robot-assisted surgery systems face problems inherent to both laparoscopic/endoscopic and IGS systems such as a limited visual frame of reference at the surgical site or inadequate resolution for precise navigation and intervention.
Over the past several decades, there has been an improvement in radiotherapy precision with the latest intensity-modulated (IMRT) and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) systems using image guidance and sophisticated delivery models. These systems aim at delivering optimal dosage within the tumor target while simultaneously minimizing exposure to surrounding tissue through precise patient alignment and tracking of patient movement relative to the simulation or treatment model.