New virtual reality technology to improve heart surgery

New technology developed by researchers at Evelina London and King’s College London allows surgeons to immerse themselves into a patient’s heart to plan surgery using virtual reality.

Thanks to funding from Evelina London Children’s Charity and British Heart Foundation (BHF), virtual reality technology can now bring together scans to create a three-dimensional, digital image of the heart.

This new technology could shorten operating times and reduce the need for multiple surgeries, leading to better outcomes and experiences for patients and their families.

Surgeons found when using early forms of the software it helped to increase their understanding of the structure of their patient’s heart, as they could immerse themselves in the image. It also allows them to interact with and manipulate the images, and trial options in virtual reality before the operation.

Lead researcher, Professor John Simpson, consultant paediatric and fetal cardiologist at Evelina London and King’s College London, said: “Procedures to repair the heart’s anatomy can be complex, and surgeons don’t like surprises. Each patient’s condition has individual characteristics to their heart. Our technology will allow surgeons to plan and practice these procedures, and we’re currently applying for approval for it to be used in this way.

“We think that this technology could also be used outside of congenital heart disease surgeries, to plan any procedure which aims to repair a structural problem within the heart, such as valve surgery in an adult patient.” 

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