Surgical theater saves brains

LOS ANGELES (Ivanhoe Newswire) – The surgical theater looks like the ultimate video game, and, in fact, the gaming industry’s multi-billion dollar investment in the technology helped make it happen. Brain surgeons at UCLA are using virtual reality to make operations infinitely more precise and less time-consuming. 

Lucas Deines is grateful he can play cards with his kids, Kai and Jamie today. Two years ago, doctors found a one-inch tumor in his brain.

Deines told Ivanhoe, “I had no idea what to expect. I was scared to death. I thought the worst. I started googling it, which just reinforced the worst.”

Neil Martin, M.D., the chairman of the department of neurosurgery at UCLA in Los Angeles, used surgical theater virtual reality to map Deines’ tumor. It took 2D images from MRIs and CT scans to create a 3D reconstruction of the inside of Deines’ head.

“As somebody who’s done about 5,000 operations, there’s no question in my mind this is tremendously useful and improves the quality and efficiency of the surgery that I’m doing,” said Dr. Martin.

Dr. Martin virtually toured Deines’ brain before surgery with hand controllers and a headset. He saw the tumor was wrapped around the carotid artery.

Dr. Martin said, “It’s extremely helpful. To explore it in three dimensions is almost like walking around it, so that you can see the angles, the proximity, the relationship between normal structures and the abnormality.”

Someday, Dr. Martin sees medical residents perfecting virtual reality surgeries before ever getting into an operating room.

Surgeons are using the surgical theater system at UCLA, Stanford, NYU, the Mayo Clinic, Mount Sinai and Case Western.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Rusty Reed, Videographer.