UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science


Virtual Reality application created by ICS Researchers is used to support consent for surgery

23 November 2021

The Centre for Clinical Cardiovascular Engineering has supported the Craniofacial Unit of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) in the consenting process for surgery in a first virtual reality (VR) experience, as explained by BBC Click.

image of carers using virtual reality headsets

The parents of Archie, a 6-month-old boy born with sagittal synostosis – congenital condition where the skull sagittal suture fuses prematurely – were able to preview in VR the shape that their son’s head would have after spring-assisted cranioplasty surgery. Sagittal synostosis, with brain growth, results in a distorted head shape that is long and narrow. However, this is not a life-threatening condition, leaving the parents with the decision to either let nature take its course, with the physical and psychological impacts that follow, or face the risks of invasive surgery.

Archie’s parents and Mr Jeelani, GOSH craniofacial surgeon, were completely immersed in a VR consultation room where the surgeon was able to demonstrate the operation on their own son’s skull, including bone cuts, spring distractor insertion and the final results. This gave confidence to the parents on their decision to go ahead with the surgery for their child which was delivered successfully a few weeks later.

The computational simulations, including optimisation of skull bone cuts and spring device selection were carried out by Dr Alessandro Borghi at GOS Institute of Child Health, and the prediction results implemented in VR by Endrit Pazajiti, PhD student in ICS.

The full documentary is available below: