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Why doctors are bringing video game tech into the operating room

“The mixed reality headset allows us to use the patient's anatomy in a 3D constructed program that allows us to plan for their case,” one doctor explained.

LOS ANGELES — More than 53,000 people will have shoulder replacement surgery this year. The average age is 60 to 80. And just like knee and hip replacement surgeries, this procedure can be a life changer. Now, the technology used in some of the latest mixed reality games makes this surgery even better.

Pokémon Go — a mixed reality game that has captivated millions of people — urging them to find this 3D hologram character superimposed in their own reality — is now becoming a reality in the O.R.

“The mixed reality headset allows us to use the patient's anatomy in a 3D constructed program that allows us to plan for their case,” explained Brian Rebolledo, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California.

Dr. Rebolledo is one of the first in the country to use 3D hologram technology to give him more insight at the operating table during surgery.

“It gives us a detailed map of the patient's anatomy and we bring that map into the operating room with us. So, we're able to use the headset with the 3D hologram and bring that right next to the patient while we're putting the implants in,” Dr. Rebolledo further explained.

Before surgery, CT scans are used to create a hologram of the patient’s shoulder.

“The technology works with a headset that we use in the operating room, and this is by voice command and hand control commands," Dr. Rebolledo added.

Surgeons can rotate and zoom in or out of the hologram model while comparing it in real time to the patient’s own anatomy.

“What that allows us to do is to minimize the risk of improper placement, to minimize the risk, hopefully, of loosening over time, and to minimize risk to the soft tissue around the shoulder,” Dr. Rebolledo mentioned.

Before 3D holograms, surgeons relied on X-rays and CT scans to help guide them. This gives them an even more realistic view of what’s really going on. Scripps Clinic is one of 33 health care providers in the U.S. using mixed reality technology for shoulder replacement surgery.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting David Bohlman at david.bohlman@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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