Virtual reality surgery a first at Children's Hospital Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Today you can use virtual reality to transport yourself anywhere in the world. VR elevates video-gaming and social media to a whole new level. Now, surgeons at Children's Hospital Los Angeles are leading the way in how they utilize VR in the operating room.

With the use of virtual reality, visiting doctors from China can stand right next to a top CHLA surgeon as he operates on a rare and complicated case: A baby born with her bladder outside her body.

Joseph Itaya, the founder of Epicenter VR Inc., the company partnering with CHLA, explained how the surgery is live-streamed through high resolution. And like a video game, virtual reality allows doctors to see additional layers of information.

"You have the charts. You have the x-rays all brought together in one field," Itaya said. Dr. Yichen Huang from Shanghai Children's Hospital said it's an immersive learning experience. "Sometimes you can't even realize it's a virtual system," he said, "It's like a real world."

CHLA's Chief of Urology, Dr. Roger de Filippo, said the technology allows patients all over the world access to the best experts. "We can bring someone from across the country and have them participate in a multi-disciplinary effort," Filippo said.

When you wear the VR headset, you can see every corner of the room. But this surgical application is just the beginning.

CHLA doctors hope to use this technology to educate parents and help patients alleviate their fears. "There are kids right now in the hospital who are hooked up to chemotherapy and dialysis." Itaya said, "They're walking though the Grand Canyon. They're walking underneath the Eiffel Tower."

Both patients and their families can get a virtual glimpse and understand of what will happen during a procedure. "That information is important in allaying a lot of the anxiety and maybe the trepidations that our patients might have," Filippo said.

This surgical first is opening the door to endless applications.
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