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Behind the scenes: George Washington Hospital uses virtual reality for dynamic three-dimensional imaging of internal anatomy

Virtual reality is being used at The George Washington University Hospital to give students, patients and surgeons a three-dimensional view of internal anatomy to practice, discuss and plan procedures.

The surgical theater created using Precision Virtual Reality™ was inspired by flight simulators designed to train fighter pilots.

“It allows us to go from the traditional system of flat, two-dimensional imaging to a dynamic three-dimensional imaging system,” said Dr. Anthony Caputy, chair of GW Hospital’s department of neurosurgery.

Doctors believe the new system will prove to be a useful tool for communicating with patients.

“Had a patient the other day. We were talking about a blood vessel near the tumor [to be removed], and they actually pointed it out and said, ‘How are you going to protect that. And, what is …?'” said Dr. Jonathan Sherman, assistant professor of neurosurgery and director of surgical neuro-oncology at GW Hospital.

Sherman is among the GW doctors who believe engaged, well-informed patients are likely to have better outcomes. Patients with a better understanding both of what’s happening to their bodies during surgery and of the end result might better appreciate how much rehabilitation will be necessary during recovery.

GW Hospital will be the first hospital in the mid-Atlantic region to offer virtual reality technology for surgical patients.

“As an academic medical center, GW Hospital is committed to advancing medicine through research and technology,” said CEO Kimberly Russo.

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