Recent advances in virtual reality technology have made it possible for use in the medical field. The application of virtual reality, the implications of its use, and barriers to widespread adoption were reviewed in an article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Basic to Translational Science.
In cardiology, virtual reality has found uses in education, preprocedural planning, intraprocedural visualization, and patient rehabilitation. Among its educational uses are simulating the entire operating environment and the educational material. Mixed reality systems even allow multiple wearers to interact and discuss with one another while viewing the same educational material in a natural environment. Education applications of virtual reality can also be expanded beyond the clinician level to help patients and their families understand the anatomy involved in any planned procedures.
Virtual reality has led to FDA-approved applications in preprocedural planning, allowing the cardiologist to visualize arteries in patients with pulmonary atresia with major aortopulmonary collateral arteries. Virtual reality also has the potential to improve intraprocedural visualization, which currently relies on techniques such as fluoroscopy, electroanatomic mapping systems, and echocardiography. The latest prototypes allow visualization of patient-specific 3-dimensional cardiac geometry with real-time catheter locations.
In addition, there are rehabilitation applications for virtual reality that have also been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Patients recovering from stroke can use a combination of virtual reality, brain imaging, and gaming technologies to retrain the brain and improve upper limb mobility.
The researchers wrote, “Rapid hardware advances driven by the revolution in mobile computing have finally brought devices that are tractable for medical applications into existence.”
They added, “[I]mprovements in physician performance based on better information will most likely translate into lower-cost procedures and better outcomes for patients.”
Silva J, Southworth M, Raptis C, Silva J. Emerging applications of virtual reality in cardiovascular medicine. JACC Basic Transl Sci. 2018;3(3):420-430.