Virtual Reality in Neurosurgery: "Can You See It?"-A Review of the Current Applications and Future Potential

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World Neurosurgery


Virtual reality (VR) technology had its early development in the 1960s in the U.S. Air Force and has since evolved into a budding area of scientific research with many practical medical purposes. From medical education to resident training to the operating room, VR has provided tangible benefits to learners and trainees and has also improved surgery through enhanced preoperative planning and efficiency in the operating room. Neurosurgery is a particularly complex field of medicine, in which VR has blossomed into a tool with great usefulness and promise. In spinal surgery, VR simulation has allowed for the practice of innovative minimally invasive procedures. In cranial surgery, VR has excelled in helping neurosurgeons design unique patient-specific approaches to particularly challenging tumor excisions. In neurovascular surgery, VR has helped trainees practice and perfect procedures requiring high levels of dexterity to minimize intraoperative complications and patient radiation exposure. In peripheral nerve surgery, VR has allowed surgeons to gain increased practice and comfort with complex microsurgeries such as nerve decompression. Overall, VR continues to increase its potential in neurosurgery and is poised to benefit patients in a multitude of ways. Although cost-prohibiting, legal, and ethical challenges surrounding this technology must be considered, future research and more direct quantitative outcome comparisons between standard and VR-supplemented procedures would help provide more direction regarding the feasibility of widespread adoption of VR technology in neurosurgery.



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Augmented reality, Mixed reality, Neurosurgery, Neurosurgical technology, Virtual reality