Virtual Reality Surgery
A women poses for the media as she uses a VR virtual reality headset before the annual news conference of German media group Bertelsmann in Berlin, Germany, March 22, 2016. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Dr. Shafi Ahmed is about to be part of the world’s first virtual reality cancer operation next month. The surgery will be live-streamed and smartphone users can watch the entire operation using a virtual reality headset.

The British patient in his 70s, who will be undergoing the procedure, is extremely excited as the operation will be watched by numerous people across the world. Thus, the operation theatre, which has always been a mystery to many, will be laid bare. Ahmed, who has pioneered the concept of live streaming surgeries, believes this is the future of medical education.

Ahmed said that this virtual surgery experiment will be a game-changer that would address global inequalities in surgical health. It would also allow surgeons and trainees “to connect and train remotely across the world.” He said virtual reality should be used in education.

The patient will be undergoing the two to three-hour surgery on April 14 at the Royal London Hospital. Cameras with a 360-degree range will be fixed above the operating table. Viewers need to get a first-hand feel of the operation using a consumer-grade virtual reality headset such as a Samsung Gear VR or an Oculus Rift. The operation will be live-streamed online from 10pm AEST.

Ahmed, a consultant surgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital, has experimented a lot with 360-degree cameras. In 2014, he became the first surgeon to live stream an operation wearing Google Glass. He was awarded in 2015 with a silver scalpel award by the Association of Surgeons in Training for his contributions in surgical training. He has co-founded the company Medical Realities for advancing medical education using new technologies.

Details about the access to the live streaming have not been announced yet although Medical Realities has tweeted a flyer with some details about the event.

Watch Medical Realities’ Surgical Training in 360-Degree Virtual Reality video here.

Source: YouTube/Medical Realities