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Ear Infection Health Center

Doctors Take Virtual Reality Tours Inside Patients

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Virtual reality 3D CT is not new, says Geoffrey D. Rubin, MD, associate professor of radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. At a previous meeting, they "did a fly through of the sinus. I think that we continue to see a lot of 'gee whiz' images but the real perspective on this work is that it is now five years since we first saw the technology. So, are we making great leaps? Is it improving treatment?"

Rubin says that he has not yet seen evidence of that much anticipated improvement. He cautions against "every year reinventing the wheel." The goal, he says, is to advance treatment. Rubin says the area where the "breakthrough with 3D CT may come is virtual colonoscopy." He says that doctors who do colonoscopy -- in which a scope is inserted into the colon as a screening test for colon cancer -- seem to be those most interested in the technology.

"I think the reason for that is that we can do so much more with 3D CT than one can do with traditional colonoscopy. We can straighten out the colon" which gives the specialists novel perspectives, he says. Additionally, using virtual colonoscopy eliminates the need for sedation and thus may make the procedure more acceptable to patients.

Penrod and Johnson agree that patients may drive acceptance of "virtual reality" imaging because the noninvasive nature is appealing to many patients.

Currently, Johnson says the inner ear program is being used mainly as an educational tool. He says, however, that he is planning a large-scale study to compare the accuracy of the program with more traditional techniques.

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