Virtual reality (VR) is being used to help prospective brain surgeons train and see procedures in unprecedented detail.

Surgeons training to work on the brain have typically struggled getting hands-on experience thanks to the inaccessibility of neurosurgery.

Barts Health NHS Trust surgeon Alex Alamri and other clinicians at the Royal London Hospital recently conducted the first brain surgery to be recorded in virtual reality, using 360-degree cameras and GoPros on the heads of the surgeons.

Alamri noted the challenges of training neurosurgeons: ‘Neurosurgery is probably one of the most inaccessible surgical specialities there is, especially from the point of view of the patients and public.

‘They can experience a certain element of neurophobia where anything to do with the brain is quite scary.’

The surgeons worked with virtual reality training company FundamentalVR, which states that it helps businesses to leverage VR, mixed reality and augmented reality for the purpose of training. The company has developed technology that allows trainees to carry out ‘virtual surgeries’ and get real-time feedback so they can feel what surgeons would feel during the procedure.

The adoption of VR in this instance is part of a broader project called Brainbook, which has uploaded the video to Youtube, though as with all VR videos, the experience is improved by using a headset.

The video, which is at times extremely graphic and involves up-close footage of brain surgery, demonstrates the immersive nature of the VR footage. The surgery being carried out was the clipping of two aneurysms and is apparently extremely invasive. On this occasion the procedure went as planned.

Alamri has high hopes for the potential of VR in surgery training: ‘Hopefully from all points of view: a tech one, an education point of view, and a brain aneurysm awareness point of view it hits all three nails on the head.’

Tech is helping healthcare develop, with recent advances such as the use of artificial intelligence in the early detection of skin cancer.