A researcher in the U.K. has developed a headset that uses 3D virtual reality technology to help oral and maxillofacial surgical trainees to perform complex medical procedures.
Yeshwanth Pulijala, BDS, a researcher and doctoral student at the University of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, England, is using virtual reality technology to provide accurate graphical visualizations of human anatomy and surgical procedures using the headset, according to a university news story.
During his training as a dental surgeon in India, Dr. Pulijala faced the problem of poor visualization in the operating room. This awareness and his interest in 3D design and technology led him to the U.K. for postgraduate research in the use of advanced technology to improve healthcare.
Dr. Pulijala created a mobile app called SurFace that provides patient education in corrective jaw surgery. He then explored the potential of virtual reality for surgical education using a highly advanced headset, Oculus Rift. Using the headset, surgical trainees can see the surgical procedure in an operating room environment while being able to "touch" the skull of the patient and interact with it, he said.
Learning through observation and hands-on participation are important for surgical trainees, dental, and medical students. They learn by observing the procedures in real-time. But the problem, according to Dr. Pulijala, is that not everybody can see what is happening during complex medical procedures, especially in crowded operating rooms where surgical trainees perform multiple duties. And with oral and maxillofacial surgery, the structures are complex and densely enclosed in a confined space, making it hard to observe and learn.
Consequently, 4 out of 10 surgical trainees are not confident in performing the procedure, Dr. Pulijala said. His project aims to provide trainee surgeons with close-up, unrestricted, 360° views of a surgical procedure that has the potential to improve operating room sessions in surgical training.
Dr. Pulijala is now developing the concept and producing working prototypes.