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VR in Medicine: Actual Application and Near-Term Prospects

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In the modern era, everyone has probably heard about Virtual Reality. Most of us have tried VR in movies or video games at least once. But few are aware of its other applications; for example, in medicine, where this technology has been used for almost 30 (!) years. In this article, we will analyze the most interesting use cases of VR developments in healthcare.

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Help in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease

The number of people suffering from this disease is growing with each year: according to doctors’ forecasts, over the next 30 years, it could increase from 50 to 130 million. There is still no cure for it; all we have now are ways to partially and temporarily restore memory, thus slowing down the development of the disease.

The Wayback startup develops solutions for fighting dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Wayback makes it possible to recreate memorable moments from a person’s life to reactivate long-term memory. Experiments prove that VR therapy helps patients remember the details of their lives, perceive reality, and consciously communicate with their close ones.

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Virtual hearts

Dr. David Axelrod from Lucile Packard Hospital at Stanford has developed a VR heart model. This model is used by him for students’ education and demonstration to patients. The visual model allows patients to be shown the nuances of the operation, which relieves them of unnecessary stress. In VR, people can view the heart from any angle, as well as see its defects and related problems. Along with that, VR provides the opportunity to simulate the course of the operation.

Virtual hearts are used for training students not only by Lucile Packard but also by dozens of medical centers around the world. Practice shows that those students who used VR for their training show the highest results on tests and recognize various defects better. VR modeling will be used in medicine increasingly often anyway, simply because it is cheaper and more efficient than working with plastic models.

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A weapon against cancer

Such companies as Oncomfort, Start VR, KindVR, etc. have been using VR technologies to help patients with oncology for more than a year. VR helps to reduce stress and induce positive emotions in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Studies on cancer patients have shown that VR is more effective than painkillers: enjoyable virtual travel reduces patients’ focus on pain by 48%, while opioids – by only 10%.

VR also assists in the study of tumors, and therefore, the efficiency of operations increases. Scientists from Cambridge have won two grants totaling more than $50 million to study breast cancer using VR technology. This method provides a means for studying tumor cells in more detail and discovering new aspects of the disease. The model format allows scientists from different countries to study the tumor simultaneously, without the need to develop their own samples.

Eyesight recovery

According to research data, about 5% of the world’s population suffers from hypovision. Experts at the IrisVision startup have developed a wearable device that allows a visually impaired person to expand their peripheral vision, which eliminates the effect of blurred spots on the retina – the main obstacle for clear vision.

VR against traumas

Training devices with VR make physiotherapy more fun, break up routines, and increase patients’ motivation. Additionally, VR training devices increase the effectiveness of rehabilitation by focusing on problem areas of the body and thus helping the patient to properly distribute the load.

KineQuantum, a French startup, is involved in gamifying the physical rehabilitation of patients. For example, in order to help a shoulder joint recover, KineQuantum offers a VR archery simulator. This makes patients perform movements fully, while in conventional physiotherapy, many don’t work at full capacity and react more strongly to pain.

In fact, there are many more projects using VR technologies in healthcare and other industries. In 2020, the VR/AR market is estimated at $2.5 billion and is growing by about 30% annually. Our customers are also interested in VR/AR, so Andersen keeps track of the development of these technologies and all their current updates.

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