Brain surgery meets virtual reality at GW Hospital

Advanced virtual reality equipment is helping neurosurgeons at GW Hospital explore the brain in a whole new way.

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A UHS facility since 1997, GW Hospital provides world-class medical care using advanced technology. New and sophisticated tools, such as virtual reality, help doctors diagnose and treat patients at the hospital.

The term “virtual reality” may conjure up thoughts of video games for some people, but at the George Washington University Hospital, it’s being used to help neurosurgeons plan brain surgery. Using advanced equipment, surgeons can virtually explore a patient’s brain prior to performing a procedure, much like a pilot uses a flight simulator.

Virtual reality can help surgeons determine the different surgical techniques that will achieve the best outcome for the patient. The tool can improve surgical efficiency while potentially reducing complications and procedure times.

It enables us to “fly through” and see all the intricate details and work through the surgery on the screen before we actually operate.
Jonathan Sherman, MD, Neurosurgeon

The virtual system works based on MRI or CT scan images of the patient’s brain that are loaded into the program to create a 3D reconstruction. Neurosurgeon Jonathan Sherman, MD, says by wearing a special headset, he can view the brain as if he were inside it.

“It enables us to “fly through” and see all the intricate details and work through the surgery on the screen before we actually operate,” he says. “This helps us confirm the course of action and also provides a map for surgeries involving brain tumors, aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations.”

The virtual reality system is also a valuable tool for patients. Surgeons can virtually walk patients and their families through the surgery, which can help them understand the procedure. “When we review the images with the patient, they can see everything we’re going to do. Knowing how the process is going to play out can be reassuring and help put them at ease,” says Dr. Sherman.

LEARN MORE ABOUT VR TECHNOLOGY AT GW HOSPITAL >