Virtual reality is finding a place in health care

Laura Victoria-Perez needed a hysterectomy and for the first time in her life, was facing major surgery. I didn’t know what to expect about the operating room. I didn’t know what to expect about the preparation. The idea of having surgery and spending time in hospital can cause high levels of anxiety says anesthesiologist Dr. Fahad Alam. And that can be dangerous. Preoperative anxiety has significant morbidity and mortality in the sense that it can lead to complications such as prolonged stay in hospital, decreased range of motion or functional recovery after orthopedic surgery, increased wound infections. He says significant levels of pre-operative anxiety independently predicated a greater risk of death, especially among heart patients. But now, he’s leading a unique research project to reduce preoperative anxiety using virtual reality. We got the call that the operating room is ready for you so now begins your journey two floors up to the operating rooms. With the use of 360 degree cameras, he and his colleagues developed this virtual tour, walking patients through all the steps they will experience before being anesthetized. Patients in the study view it on this special headset and their anxiety levels are measured on a rating scale before and after surgery. So that maybe, if they are exposed to it two weeks before their surgery, when it comes time for their surgery and it happens in real life they know what it’s like. He says Sunnybrook is one of the only hospitals in Canada researching virtual reality, an amazing area with endless applications. Laura says she was actually excited for her surgery to see how the virtual tour would compare to the real thing. So it eased a lot of my worries and at the same time it was kind of cool actually to be able to see everything in 3D. This study will include about 100 patients and if found to be effective, this virtual tour could be uploaded to a portal for anyone to access. The hope is this virtual reality will prove to be a very real success. With Sunnyview, I’m Monica Matys.

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