Virtual Reality in Medicine: If you are a person who likes to stay on top of the main innovations and advances in the health area, you should know that virtual reality (VR) is being increasingly used and applied in medicine.
Virtual reality applications are vast, making this technology stand out nowadays, mainly due to the benefits and facilities it offers health professionals. Therefore, if you want to know more about virtual reality, continue reading this text to understand the preliminary information on the subject.
What Is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality can be defined as the creation of a computer-digitized “world.” This world is created through effects and visual resources that immerse the person in the developed environment.
For VR to be effective, in most cases, it is necessary to use equipment such as virtual reality glasses and headsets, allowing immersion in a new environment that can include sounds, touch, aromas, and other senses.
Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality
As previously mentioned, in virtual reality, the person is inserted into a new environment, elaborated and projected by the display he uses. Augmented reality is a technology that inserts, in real-time, virtual elements into the physical environment. This occurs through screens placed close to the user’s eyes. A great example of augmented reality is Pokémon Go, which uses a cell phone to insert virtual elements into the natural environment.
How Can Virtual Reality Be Applied In Medicine?
Virtual reality is a technology that can be applied in different areas and ways within medicine, ranging from medical training to treating phobias, for example. Check out some examples of VR medical applications below.
Training For Doctors
VR has been considerably encouraged in physician training, as it ensures excellent safety and accuracy for students’ practice. A virtual environment is created where students can visualize the human body in detail and have the possibility to train in surgeries and other procedures without the need to use actual patients and put them at risk in any way.
Treatment Of Phobias And Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Patients who have suffered trauma and have phobias have also been treated by virtual reality. This “therapy” creates an environment that simulates situations that would trigger phobia and stress crises.
The psychologist or psychiatrist responsible for treating patients in their treatments accompanies you during this procedure and can observe how your brain reacts to the situation. After that, the therapist can propose the best treatment for his patient.
Development Of Social Cognition
With a focus on developing social cognition, autistic patients use virtual reality in their treatments. Virtual reality applications are used in these situations, which puts patients in some cases where interaction with other people is necessary, such as shopping and talking to someone.
During this procedure, physicians must monitor the patient’s brain waves to understand what they feel in simulated situations and, thus, identify the best ways of intervention and treatment.
Help For Anxious People
Anxiety is present in many patients who need to go to hospitals to perform some surgical procedure. With that in mind, virtual reality has been used to calm and relax these people. This is done by creating relaxing environments with calm music that will help reduce the patient’s anxiety, facilitating the procedures.
Seven Examples Of Virtual Reality Applied In Medicine
Virtual reality is being applied increasingly in several medical and research centers to improve medical advances, increase patient quality and assist in treatments. See below some prominent examples of VR applications that have already been made worldwide.
Simulation Of Endoscopic Sinus Surgery
Endoscopic sinus surgery can be complicated for clinicians because of the variations in each patient’s facial anatomy. Considering it, Stanford University created a VR program where doctors can train the surgery before being performed on patients, which made all the difference in their results.
Treatment Of Psychiatric Patients
As we said in the previous topic, virtual reality has already been used to treat phobias. With that in mind, researchers at the University of Louisville are developing a program with this objective. During treatment, patients face the agent causing their fears and anxieties and can analyze the best way to meet and deal with the phobia.
Post-Traumatic Stress Treatment
Since 1997, the University of Southern California has developed a program to treat patients suffering from post-traumatic stress, mainly used with war veterans.
The therapy consists of a series of virtual scenarios designed specifically for virtual reality exposure treatment based on coping with “trigger situations” such as Middle Eastern-themed cities and deserted roads.
In addition to the visualization of the scenarios, 3D audio stimuli, vibrations, and smells are also used to bring more liveliness to the experience.
Snow world is a virtual reality game created by the University of Washington to assist in treating pain in burn patients. In this game, patients’ senses are flooded during treatment, distracting them from cleaning wounds, which can be pretty painful.
According to the researchers, when patients are connected to the virtual environment, it is as if their pain circuits are turned off due to distraction. Thanks to this, the game was even more efficient than morphine in some cases.
A study was carried out at St George’s Hospital in London, where surgical patients could use VR headsets before and during surgery to listen to relaxing music and see calming landscapes, aiming to reduce the anxiety generated by the procedures. Virtual reality made patients feel more relaxed, and even post-surgery pain was reduced in some cases.
Treatment Of Autistic Patients
As we explained earlier, virtual reality can also help autistic people. There is a program run by the University of Texas where patients use VR to socialize and practice communication skills such as shopping, interviewing, and even dating.
VR In Medical Classes
Virtual reality has also been applied in medical classes. The medical course has made its anatomy and physiology classes more interactive since virtual reality glasses were added to the disciplines, allowing students to better understand organs, bones, and the entire human organism.
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