Virtual reality is one of the most promising new technologies to date. The creation of virtual worlds mostly revolutionize around the gaming and entertainment industry such as in sc-fi movies. However, it has also created very interesting applications for healthcare. It is one of the technologies that can be disruptive in various fields of medicine, from the training of future doctors to the treatment of psychiatric cases, surgeries, rehabilitation, among others. In this article, we will address the main applications of virtual reality that are being developed and show where we are going with this technology.
Before we talk about the applications themselves, let’s define what this technology is.
Virtual reality is the creation of a digitized world, made on the computer. Through it, the person wears glasses, or enters a booth (the shape does not matter) and feels like he/she is in a completely different place. With the development of this technology, in addition to vision, other senses are being incorporated and may also include sounds, aromas, and even taste and touch.
Helps in Brain surgeries
A brain operation, usually related to a tumor, is one of the most delicate procedures in all of medicine. From the two-dimensional images generated by exams such as magnetic resonance and tomography, virtual reality software is able to create a three-dimensional reproduction of the patient’s brain.
This model has two practical uses. First, the patient himself may have a dimension of his tumor and a greater sense of how the procedure works. In practice, this decreases anxiety and increases his confidence in the doctor. Besides, the model allows the surgeon to rehearse the operation and, in this way, choose the most assertive procedure since each patient has anatomy that requires certain conduct.
Reduces pain control
Burn victims suffer from terrible and constant pain, which intensifies during the treatment of wounds or physiotherapy exercises. To help them relieve pain, a virtual reality game was created by researchers at the University of Washington and has surprising results. In SnowWorld, the player needs to throw snowballs at penguins. The snowy virtual environment is a stark contrast to the cause of your pain. This therapy has had better results than morphine in some cases.
Virtual Reality Therapy is also recommended for the treatment of chronic pain. These patients are often afraid to move, which can make the problem worse. Various VR programs make patients exercise their injured body parts. They also expand your range of motion while blocking the brain’s ability to register pain.
Treatment of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a disease that has no cure. There are virtual reality techniques that can help patients to regain cognitive abilities. They are made by reproducing images from the past. The objective of this system is to enhance the patient’s concentration and improve his attitude since apathy or lack of concentration is problems that derive from this disease. These methods are carried out through the reproduction of events, experiences, or family meetings that can stimulate the patient’s memory.
A study carried out by the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn (Germany) suggests that Alzheimer’s could be predicted decades in advance. The procedure was based on asking a group of young people between 18 and 30 years old to walk through a virtual maze so they could test the function of specific brain cells. According to the researchers, people who were at high risk of suffering from the disease showed a reduced performance of a specific brain cell involved in movement through space.
Currently, there is no treatment available that can cure Alzheimer’s disease; the only drugs that are administered are used when most of the brain is impaired. Identifying this disease in the early stages could significantly help in its subsequent treatment.
In summary, it is possible to observe how VR has incredible potential to improve the quality and accessibility of medical services. And, with the continuous advancement of the area by the work of countless researchers, engineers, and programmers, it is only a matter of time until further advances come out from research centers and arrive at hospitals around the world.