Virtual reality surgery streamed online

Surgeon Sahfi Ahmed, who made a name for himself by using Google Glass, performed cancer surgery Thursday using virtual reality that was streamed online.

Medical students around the world and other interested parties could view the Royal London Hospital-based operation--and the whole surgery workflow--using inexpensive Google Cardboard VR glasses paired with the VRinOR app for smartphone or tablet or by watching it online.

Ahmed told The Guardian he believes virtual reality could improve the training of surgeons worldwide. Nicklaus Children's Hospital, part of the Miami Children's Health System, currently uses virtual reality to train employees on procedures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). 

Virtual reality expands upon surgical videos, which have been around for years, by providing an immersive experience showing what all team members are doing during a procedure, Ahmed said.

The operation was shot with two 360-degree cameras and a number of lenses arranged around the theater, but Guardian writer Nicola Davis reported less-than-ideal image quality. Though those watching could see a 360-degree view of the surgical theater, with stationary cameras they couldn't move to get a better view, which was frustrating, she said.

George Hanna, professor of surgical sciences at Imperial College, London, called the technology an upgrade in methods to improve medical education rather than a revolution.

Tufts Medical Center plans to use virtual reality to address patient anxiety before surgery. It allows patients to see a 360-degree view of the surroundings at the hospital before they even make an appointment.

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