Virtual reality surgery platform being tested in Lake Charles

Virtual reality surgery platform being tested in Lake Charles

From mega shows CSI and ER, to local ORs.  The Emmy Award-winning special effects supervisor to some of our favorite medical TV shows is moving that technology to a virtual reality that could impact the precision of future procedures.

Lake Charles is the only test site in the world and these effects are something you truly have to see to believe.

Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Nathan Cohen, with the Memorial Medical Group is "strapping into the rift" as it is called, leaving the reality his eyes typically see for a virtual world in three dimensions.  "To be able to look at this with Oculus goggles on and be able to look at it three-dimensionally," said Dr. Cohen, "be able to walk into the knee, look around inside the joint, upside down, and be able to diagnose things much more accurately is pretty phenomenal."

Rik Shorten, Jim Reeves, and their team with Bioflight VR have spent years making movies and TV shows.  With a vast medical image library, they wanted to find a way to tap into a virtual reality platform for the healthcare industry.

"We had kind of approached it with this CSI, going inside the body," said Bioflight VR managing partner, Jim Reeves.  "He (Dr. Cohen) was a little skeptical, because it's easy to put up a video where people watch it on television, versus a doctor who needs specific data to do their jobs."

The Bioflight VR team collaborated with Dr. Cohen on how a tool like this could change the landscape of surgeries.  "We've beta tested this with cardiologists, with general surgeons, neurosurgeons, so there's opportunities for all of these specialties, also family practice," said Dr. Cohen.

When you put on the Oculus goggles, you are in a flight simulator of sorts for doctors.  "The device tracks your upper body, so as you move, the device changes your field of view," said Rik Shorten, Bioflight VR creative officer.  "It's full 360, so when you're inside the rift, everywhere you look around, it replaces the entire environment that you're in."

"It's almost like I'm living inside the joint.  It's an entirely different perspective never seen before," said Dr. Cohen.

Bioflight uses patient specific CT and MRI data in true 3D.  360 capture live offers virtual presence opportunities for remote training.  The next goal is to offer the sense of touch.

"Down the line we're hoping that when the haptic feedback, the idea of actually reaching out and touching something and feeling it push back," said Shorten.  "When that technology catches up, we have a lot of ideas about virtual surgeries, replacing cadaveric training, and wet labs."

"It's going to change dramatically what we're able to do from a diagnostic point of view," said Dr. Cohen, "as well as what we're able to do from a treatment point of view for patients."

The Bioflight VR team is based out of the Los Angeles area.  They plan to come back to Lake Charles before the end of the year.

Reeves has a personal connection to Southwest Louisiana.  He is Dr. Cohen's son and grew up in Lake Charles.

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