AI-Powered VR is Helping Neurosurgeons Train Better: Study
Wed, April 21, 2021

AI-Powered VR is Helping Neurosurgeons Train Better: Study

A recent study showed that the combination of AI and VR neurosurgical simulators can accurately and efficiently assess the performance of surgeon trainees. / Photo by: Evgeniy Kalinovskiy via 123rf


Artificial intelligence is one of the leading drivers of growth in healthcare. A 2016 study by research firm Frost & Sullivan reported that the market for AI in healthcare is projected to reach $6.6 billion by 2021. This comes as no surprise since the collection of AI tools and other technologies, particularly virtual reality, continues to grow. VR creates an immersive experience by providing the user with images of 3D environments.

Recent statistics show that VR is growing by massive leaps and bounds. Finances Online, the fastest-growing independent software review platform, states that the number of VR users by 2025 will be as follows: video games (216 million), live events (95 million), video entertainment (79 million), retail (31.5 million), education (15 million), healthcare (3.4 million), engineering (3.2 million), and real estate (0.3 million).

Last year, the areas that attracted most VR-related investments included gaming (59 percent), education (26 percent), healthcare devices (26 percent), real estate (21 percent), marketing and advertising (20 percent), live events (19 percent), retail (18 percent), and manufacturing (17 percent).

No wonder AI and VR are being widely used in the healthcare industry. For instance, Dr. Masahiko Hara, a Japanese cardiologist, started mediVR, Inc., a startup that aims to standardize rehabilitation training for patients with neurological disorders, two years ago. The startup mediVR was created in response to unmet needs in a clinical setting. The mediVR software provides instructions that enable an accurate assessment of a patient. Then, an algorithm using AI dictates the next task according to maximum tolerance limits after the patients complete a task with the program. 

“People need to train one task repeatedly to rehabilitate and remember sensations such as balance. AI provides patients with tailor-made, maximally tolerable tasks again and again, whereas current training efficacy is based purely on the skill of a particular trainer,” Hara said. 

AI and VR Set to Drive an Increase in the Number of ORs

Operating rooms are transforming into technology-powered and sleek surgical environments called integrated operating rooms. Integrated ORs are a step towards long-distant medication and telehealth. This product of innovation, which was developed by the health IT industry, allows providers to assist an ongoing surgery although they are outside the premises of an OR. At the same time, integrated ORs can utilize intelligent and efficient delivery options in improving the precision and predictability of the services offered.

A study from Frost & Sullivan projected that 35 percent to 45 percent of ORs around the world would evolve into integrated ORs within the next four years. According to Healthcare IT News, the industry’s authoritative source covering the people, policy, and technology driving next-generation healthcare in the US, Bejoy Daniel, Frost & Sullivan senior industry analyst for transformational health, stated that ORs will shift toward a hub-and-spoke model after 2030 with the help of multiple home care devices. He also stated that the transition of ORs from regular rooms into an integrated environment will result in approximately $30 billion worth of integration opportunities available to healthcare and non-healthcare companies. 

In analyzing past and present data, Daniel emphasized that data interoperability will help in predicting future health outcomes and patient wellness index. Data interoperability addresses the ability of systems and services that create, exchange and consume data to have clear, shared expectations for the contents, context, and meaning of that data. Aside from that, the report stated that an important factor for the successful implementation of connected OR solutions is cybersecurity. 

"Currently, the priority for vendors is to analyze the available data and facilitate connectivity for device integration. The aim is to interpret, synchronize, and coordinate data to achieve optimal OR results. The shift in favor of data and algorithms will fuel the algorithmic business and endow businesses with a competitive edge,” Daniel said. 


A study from Frost & Sullivan projected that 35 percent to 45 percent of ORs around the world would evolve into integrated ORs within the next four years. / Photo by: ammentorp via 123rf


Assessing Neurosurgeons’ Capabilities Using AI-Powered VR

Aside from integrated ORs, AI and VR are also helping the next generations of doctors train better. A recent study conducted by the Neurosurgical Simulation and Artificial Intelligence Learning Centre at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) and McGill University showed that the combination of AI and VR neurosurgical simulators can accurately and efficiently assess the performance of surgeon trainees. Machine learning algorithms can help neurosurgeons develop the skills they need before getting inside the operating room.

The study shows that VR simulators using AI can be powerful tools in surgeon training. According to, the UK's most trusted news brand, this means that the AI-assisted monitoring system called NeuroVR surgical simulator can focus on improving patient safety by guiding trainees through complex surgical procedures. They have the ability to assess and determine the areas that the trainees need to improve in as well as develop essential skills before they operate on real patients. 

The NeuroVR surgical simulator was recently used by 50 study participants across four levels of neurosurgical training who underwent 250 complicated tumor surgical procedures. The machine learning algorithm reported the trainees’ level of expertise with 90 percent accuracy.