There’s nothing quite as intimidating as brain surgery. If the high-stakes of putting one’s life in the hands of a stranger wasn’t enough, neurosurgery is so infamously demanding that we use it, along with calculus heavy rocket-science, to indicate the apex of human intellect, such as when one describes a simple task with, “it’s not brain surgery.”
Aiming to relieve some of the fear patients experience when undergoing brain surgery (as if anything is going to remove the fear from any activity described as ‘going under the knife’), doctors at The Royal London Hospital partnered with developers at FundamentalVR to create a 360-degree video documenting a single surgical procedure from beginning to end. It features one patient with aneurysms on each side of his brain in need of “stitching.” The video is part of a larger education initiative called Brainbook, which records brain surgeries for medical students.
Participating surgeon Alex Amari of the Barts Health NHS Trust told Wired, “Neurosurgery is probably one of the most inaccessible surgical specialties there is, especially from the point of view of the patients and public…They can experience a certain element of neurophobia where anything to do with the brain is quite scary.”
We took a look at the video on YouTube and were quite impressed with the video quality. The video stitching could have used some work. At one point, an assisting doctor’s face disappeared into the lead surgeon’s arm, but the image was sharp and remarkably free of jagged edges. That said, even at 4K, the camera couldn’t resolve the detail of the surgery itself. So, in addition to the 360-degree camera, the lead surgeon wore a GoPro strapped to his or her head. The portable camera’s feed was composited back into the 360 image and gave a decent view of the action, but we couldn’t help but wonder if the best view of the surgery came from the GoPro, why do we need the 360-degree camera at all? Sure, the view of the operating theater is pretty neat, but it’s window dressing for the more traditional 2D image.
FundementalVR specializes in medical virtual reality applications. In addition to this video for Brainbook, the developer has created haptic feedback driven surgery simulators to help train surgeons and let them become familiar with the distinct feel of each kind of tissue they’ll encounter in the brain. The company also developed a Holo Lens driven haptic feedback system to train healthcare professionals in general. Both of these projects fall under their FeelRealVR platform. CEO Chris Scattergood told Wired that the 360-degree video is the first step to create an aneurysm stitching simulator for doctors and students.
You’ll find the video embedded above. It’s worth the five minutes to get a detailed look at something most of us will never see or experience (hopefully) first-hand. However, the more squeamish among us may want to take a pass.