George Washington University uses virtual reality to view COVID-19 patient's damaged lungs


George Washington University Hospital used virtual reality technology to create a 360-degree view of a COVID-19 patient's lungs, according to a recent episode of the hospital's podcast.

The hospital's thoracic surgery program implemented the 360-degree VR platform about four years ago to use for surgical planning and patient education. After receiving its first COVID-19 patient in mid-March, GW Hospital used the VR platform to more accurately assess the damage the patient's lungs had acquired due to the disease.

"When we had our COVID-19 positive patient transferred to us, we very quickly recreated these images into the VR platform so that we can get a better look at the damage that is being caused to the lung," Keith Mortman, MD, chief of thoracic surgery at GW Hospital, said during the podcast.

After applying the VR technology to the images, the GW Hospital team was able to see the "stark contrast" between the COVID-19 patient's infected lung and the healthier lung tissue.

"It's such a contrast that you do not need an MD after your name to understand these images," Dr. Mortman said. "This is something the general public can take a look at and really start to comprehend how severe the amount of damage this is causing the lung tissue. The damage we’re seeing is not isolated to any one part of the lung. This is severe damage to both lungs diffusely."

GW Hospital used extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which is a technology that removes blood from the body, infuses it with oxygen and returns it to the body, to treat the COVID-19 patient.

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