Royal London Hospital streams world’s first surgery in virtual reality

If you think you have been to a theatre with cutting edge technology, then think again.

An operation on a patient with colon cancer at The Royal London Hospital is the first in the world to be broadcasted live through virtual reality (VR) technology. On Thursday, medical students watched remotely though VR headsets and smartphones to learn about surgery at first hand from one of the country’s leading cancer surgeons, Dr Shafi Ahmed.

For this project, Barts Health worked in partnership with Medical Realities, a healthcare company set up by Dr Shafi Ahmed to improve medical training through VR and Augmented Reality (AR), and Mativision, specialists in live streaming 360 degree video and VR. The operation was filmed on two 360° cameras with multiple lenses and live streamed through Mativision’s 360 degree and VR player to let viewers move around the theatre and zoom in and out of any aspect of the operation.

Medical students from Barts Health were given with VR headsets which provided an immersive experience, to participate in the operation from nearby seminar rooms in the hospital and Queen Mary University of London. Others logged in from medical schools around the world. Viewers without a VR watched the operation on a smartphones and computer screens.

The goal is to host many more VR surgeries on the Mativision app, ‘VR in OR’ and Medical Realities website. The aim for Mativision and Medical Realities is to overlay the Video On Demand content with CGI graphics and labels creating a bespoke, interactive educational experience. Thus, giving access to surgical learning as close to being present in the operation room as possible. It is expected to have a positive impact for medical personnel in the developing world, allowing them to remotely experience state-of-the-art operating theatres and train in complex surgeries.

“I am honoured that this patient has given permission for his experience to provide this unparalleled learning opportunity. As a champion of new technology in medicine, I believe that virtual and augmented reality can revolutionise surgical education and training, particularly for developing countries that don’t have the resources and facilities of NHS hospitals. I am also grateful to Mativision for making this difficult process possible from a technology perspective. I am very excited about the expansion of this program to bring more medical learning to the world.” said Dr Shafi Ahmed, Cancer Surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust and Co-founder of Medical Realities.

George Kapellos, Head of Marketing and Partnerships, Mativision said, “This is a very important milestone for Mativision as it will be the first time that our 360 and VR proprietary technology will be used for the medical vertical. It’s a great example of how VR can become a powerful educational tool and extend its reach over and above entertainment. The world is just beginning to see the possibilities of what VR can achieve and we are proud to be at the very forefront of this.”

There are more 360 degree videos of surgeries on Medical Realities’ YouTube channel, an initiative by Dr Shafi Ahmed.


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