YOUR HEALTH: Rebuilding your body before surgery

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – James Vreeken wasn’t worried when a couple of lumps appeared on his forehead, but things got worse. “It was just bothering me...

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – James Vreeken wasn't worried when a couple of lumps appeared on his forehead, but things got worse.

"It was just bothering me more and more and I'd get headaches all the time and bloody noses and I just definitely thought something was wrong."

"The growth was in his eye socket, but it was also growing back toward the brain," explained Dr. Alison Crum, oculoplastics surgeon at the University of Utah Hospital.

Dr. Crum got additional insight into James' surgery with virtual reality and a 3-D model.

Neuroradiologist Edward Quigley and his team made both using small slices of James' CT and MRI scans.

"We talked about components that surgeons or trainees would want to see, like they would want to see a potential blood vessel or where the optic nerve was or how displaced something was," said Dr. Quigley.   "So that sort of changed how we selected the components to put to build into the model."

For now, these high-tech tools are just for education for medical teams and patients.

James isn't sure he'd have agreed to surgery if he hadn't seen the model.   But his surgery was a success.

"Just being able to have that confidence in the doctors and being able to see exactly what they were going to do like, really helped."

"As we move forward, anything which decreases surgical time, time in the operating room, or makes trainees and residents feel more comfortable can all help patient care," said Dr. Quigley.

Dr. Quigley says this technology is starting to be part of pre-surgical planning in a few research settings around the country.

The FDA has not yet approved virtual reality or 3D modeling for surgeons to use.

The good news is James is free of headaches and any structural or visual problems that could have come from removing such a large tumor from his eye.

And they found out his tumor was not cancerous.

MORE FROM DR. QUIGLEY:  "Our imaging team took conventional CT and MRI images made up of many slices and planes, and converted those to a 3D model made up of bones, vessels, nerves, globe, and the tumor."

"These 3D models were both visualized inside a virtual reality headset (Ocululs) and used to 3D print physical models for resident training, patient education, and simulation."

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 Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.