Virtual reality (VR) applications in health care have been increasing over the past few decades. Most recently its uses are shifting from teaching capabilities to being a highly reliable neuro-technology tool in multiple health fields including neurosurgery.

With the rise of VR technology and more skilled surgical techniques, neurosurgical teams are developing an increased understanding of anatomo-functional connectivity of patients.

WVU Medicine Berkeley Medical Center recently became the first hospital in West Virginia to acquire Surgical Theater’s Precision Virtual Reality platform for neurological surgery. This groundbreaking mixed-reality technology provides neurosurgeons with a never-before-seen view of the anatomy and pathology of patients’ complex conditions.

Surgical Theater allows neurosurgeons to walk their patients and family members through a reconstructed, 360-degree VR model based on the patient’s CT and MRI scans. These models are used to create customized digital treatment plans for patients and have also proven to be useful for intraoperative visualization and navigation during complex surgical procedures.

Berkeley Medical Center has equipped an office with a dedicated virtual reality clinic room where patients can interact directly with their 360-degree VR models. By simply slipping on a headset, Precision Virtual Reality empowers surgeons and patients with the technological ability to walk into a virtual reconstruction of a patient’s anatomy.

This virtual reconstruction helps patients better understand the location of their tumors. At the same time, it allows surgeons to show them how they are going to safely remove the tumor, plan the surgical resection using a combination of virtual and augmented reality, and then use the system in the operating room during the actual tumor resection.

We are very excited to offer Surgical Theater’s virtual reality platform for neurosurgery at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute here in the eastern region. This system will also be invaluable in the training of our medical students and residents here on WVU’s Eastern Campus.

Jonathan H. Sherman is an associate professor of neurosurgery and director of surgical neuro-oncology, Eastern Campus, WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute.