This week a group of doctors were able to save a 4 month old girl thanks to an unlikely piece of technology, a smartphone and a cardboard box. The little girl was a very unique case as she was born with only one lung and half a heart; when doctors said there was nothing they could do, another group of doctors stepped in with something new to try. Normally when a patient has MRI scans done the doctors just look at 2D images or slices and attempt to devise a way to fix whatever problems they find. In this case the doctors did something a little more extreme, they used a smartphone and Google Cardboard to get an inside “virtual reality” view of her heart.
Google Cardboard is a simple piece of cardboard that turns a smartphone into a virtual reality device and this made it possible for a team of doctors to explore the girl’s heart, lungs, and rib cage to determine what they could do. Doctors say that it absolutely gave them unprecedented visibility into their patient that ultimately saved her life. After hours of exploring, discussing, and rechecking their ideas, the doctors essentially performed the surgery in virtual reality to make sure everything would work as planned, it went well, so the next step was to do the actual surgery.
It wasn’t a simple process but the surgical team say everything went well. After hours of surgery they say the girl’s heart is in much better shape and they’re giving her great odds are recovery now. The hospital, doctors, and surgical team are all happy to report that this is the first time they’ve really used a virtual reality to explore their options and without it they wouldn’t have been able to save the girl; Google Cardboard and a smartphone literally saved the girl’s life. Previously doctors often relied on 3D printed models that they could analyze and dissect, but they say that wasn’t quite as effective because it limited their abilities. With the virtual reality display doctors were able to get up close and personal with the problem while still seeing all of the surrounding tissue and bone structure as well.
This inspiring medical story has already caught on and started to spread innovation in the medical industry. Many doctors are hoping to see more virtual reality options available in the future, especially because they believe it could greatly increase surgical efficiency and might lead to better treatment and surgical precision. The little girl is recovering well after her surgery as well and her parents are incredibly grateful to the teams of doctors and surgeons that thought outside of the box and came up with a way to save their daughter.