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The Making of Medicine

Using Virtual Reality to Make New Treatments Real Reality

Our Ziv Haskal, MD, is using virtual reality to make the latest medical advances available to patients more quickly.

Dr. Haskal has created an 11-minute VR experience to help his fellow interventional radiologists learn how to perform thermal ablation of benign thyroid nodules. This is a less-invasive procedure that uses heat to shrink common, non-cancerous lumps in the thyroid. While it’s been done for a while outside the U.S., it’s just arriving on these shores, so it’s new to many physicians.

Dr. Haskal’s 360-degree video is coupled with close-ups, educational materials and animations, so interventional radiologists get a better sense of the procedure and how to perform it. He hopes it will pique physicians’ interest and accelerate the adoption of the technique.

“The VR experience uniquely places the viewer into the room right next to the operator,” Dr. Haskal said. “I want interventional radiologists to say, ‘I can see myself doing this.’ Patients already come from across the country for thyroid ablation. UVA can also be the training center for physicians to learn how to do this procedure.”

Dr. Haskal also sees great potential in VR as a patient education tool. You might one day don virtual reality goggles to get a sense of what your upcoming interventional radiology procedure will be like.

“This technology has incredible potential to improve care,” he said, “hether it is by better training doctors to perform procedures or helping patients know what to expect when they arrive at the hospital.”

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