Practice Makes Perfect: 3D Model Aids Surgical Outcomes

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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 17, 2019 — Using a 3D virtual reality model to prepare for kidney tumor surgery could substantially improve the outcome of the procedure. A team led by UCLA found specifically that such preparation can result in reduced operating times, less blood loss during the procedure, and shorter hospital stays.

“Surgeons have long since theorized that using 3D models would result in a better understanding of the patient anatomy, which would improve patient outcomes,” said Dr. Joseph Shirk, a clinical instructor in urology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “But actually seeing evidence of this magnitude, generated by very experienced surgeons from leading medical centers, is an entirely different matter.”

In their study, the researchers randomly separated 92 people with kidney tumors into two groups — a control group and an intervention group — each led by a surgeon. In the control group, the doctor prepared for surgery by reviewing only the patients’ CT and MRI scans.

The surgeon in the other group prepared for surgery in the same way as the control group, but was additionally able to use a 3D virtual reality model via a mobile phone and a virtual reality headset. This allowed the surgeon to visualize patients’ anatomy, and the kidneys specifically, giving the surgeon a better understanding of internal structures and the relationships between them.

“This tells us that using 3D digital models for cancer surgeries is no longer something we should be considering for the future, it’s something we should be doing now,” Shirk said. He added that the benefits of using 3D models to prepare for surgery could go beyond kidney tumor procedures and into those treating other types of cancer such as prostate, lungs, liver, and pancreas.

The UCLA team worked on the study in conjunction with researchers from the Mayo Clinic, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, the University of Tennessee Medical Center, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and the Swedish Urology Group in Seattle.

The research was published in the journal JAMA Network Open ( 

Published: October 2019
virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment or experience that can be interacted with and explored by an individual using electronic devices, such as a headset with a display. VR aims to create a sense of presence, immersing users in a computer-generated world that can be entirely fictional or a replication of the real world. It often involves the use of specialized hardware and software to provide a fully immersive and interactive experience. ...
Research & TechnologyeducationAmericasUCLAvirtual reality3D imagingImagingLight SourcesOptics3D virtual reality modelmedicalcancerBiophotonics

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