VR can speed up availability of less-invasive treatment for thyroid patients, research finds

A University of Virginia (UVA) Health interventional radiologist believes that virtual reality can offer physicians a better way to educate and expedite the adoption of innovative procedures.

By leveraging the simulated experience technology, UVA’s Zia Haskal, MD, has created a 11-minute video with an aim to increase the availability of a less-invasive treatment option for thyroid patients.

Haskal’s educational video features one of his colleagues treating benign thyroid nodules with ablation - removal or destruction of material from an object by erosive processes – to around 200 physicians wearing VR headsets at the Symposium on Clinical Interventional Oncology in Miami that was held recently.

Thermal ablation of benign thyroid nodules is a less-invasive process wherein heat is delivered by a special probe to shrink common non-cancerous lumps in the thyroid. The ablation method does less scarring compared to open surgery. Less disfiguration, shorter recovery time, and protecting function of the thyroid are some of the benefits of the ablation procedure.

A recent study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and McGill University found that machine-learning algorithms can precisely evaluate the capabilities of neurosurgeons at the time of virtual surgery, indicating that AI-powered VR simulators can be very useful tools to train surgeons.

During the study, raw data obtained from a VR surgical simulator was used by a machine-learning algorithm that developed performance measures, such as instrument position and force applied, along with outcomes like the amount of tumour removed and blood loss, predicting the level of expertise of each participant with 90% accuracy.

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