Cardiologists with Children’s Heart Center at Stanford are developing more uses of virtual reality (VR) technology in healthcare. With a goal of developing a comprehensive VR program for use in pediatric care, the hospital has partnered with both clinicians and VR designers (Lighthaus Inc) on three new projects:

Stanford Virtual Heart

With an Oculus Rift headset and Touch VR controllers, the Stanford Virtual Heart allows users to view a detailed, 3D heart model. It can be manipulated by viewers, letting them see not just the outside, but also inside of the heart, complete with blood flow. Target audience is students (used by the Stanford University School of Medicine) and patients. Specifically, the Virtual Heart allows users to view congenital heart defects, and learn how such defects may impair heart function. Given the tricky anatomy of this very 3D organ, having it viewable in VR allows physicians to demonstrate the impact of congenital defects to patients and their families in a much more detailed fashion.

Project Brave Heart

Imagine the fear and anxiety that undergoing a cardiac catheterization may provoke. Much of this may be due to the unfamiliarity with the procedure. Project Brave Heart hopes to fix this through sending patients an education VR tour of the procedure prior to their scheduled date. This is actually sent to their home, and allows the patient to not only view the catheterization process, but also to learn breathing relaxation techniques. It’s currently being investigated in a study with 40 patients, with half using the Project Brave Heart, and the other group not using it.

Converting CT and MRI Images into 3D VR Data

Cardiologists and radiologists are working on a project to take images from CT and MRI scans of children’s’ hearts, and convert them into easily viewable 3D images for surgical planning. Furthermore, the files may be 3D printed, allowing surgeons and other clinicians to view the hearts in physical 3D prior to actually making an incision. This is possible through a partnership with True3D, a Silicon Valley company involved in turning such traditionally 2D data into viewable 3D images.