Hard Core Gaming Meets Operating Room Medical Device

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The patient sported an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset while the surgeon donned a fashionable pair of Google Glass during a recent arthroscopic knee procedure at Spain’s Hospital Perpetuo Socorro.

Haute couture? No, cutting edge medical device technology. The patient–a 62-year-old woman–wore the virtual reality headset as a way of easing her preoperative anxiety while the doctor used Google Glass to stream the surgery for medical students to watch, online medical device and diagnostic industry publication MDDI reported.

Far from the hardcore video gaming it was originally designed for, the Oculus Rift headset the patient wore displayed a nocturnal beach scene with floating clouds, fireworks and balloons while playing calming music like  Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Droiders, the Spanish software developer that created the program, said its testing has shown the simulation decreases heart rates and blood pressure.

The patient had originally requested general anesthetic but opted for local anesthesia after trying out the headset.

“After introducing Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses into the operating theatre for the first time, the traumatic feeling that the patient experiences is improved,” the hospital said in a statement. “This way, we can achieve full immersion in a virtual world that keeps the patient away from the sounds and lights of an operating room and takes him to a relaxing world, very different from the present.”

Droiders also developed the software application for the Google Glass worn by orthopedic surgeon Gerardo Garcés that allowed medical students to watch the procedure from his point of view.

Wearable devices such as Google Glass are seen by physicians as viable surgical tools in the operating room because they can integrate medical images (X-rays and MRIs), open communication with other surgeons, train new physicians and create patient safety checklists. Still, there are large roadblocks–particularly in the U.S.– for wide adoption of the technology due to patient privacy and regulatory laws.