January 7, 2016 |

Friday Think: Google helps a surgeon mend a broken heart

An inexpensive virtual reality technology proves to have lifesaving applications in the operating room.
A Google Cardboard viewer.
The Google Cardboard viewer was recently used as an inexpensive tool to assist with an open heart repair surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. Photo: Public domain/Evan Amos.

Thanks in part to a deceptively simple cardboard package, a 4-month-old baby is alive today.

A little girl named Teegan, who had what surgeons thought was an inoperable heart condition, was saved when a pair of Google Cardboard glasses helped doctors view a computerized tomography (CT) scan of her heart in 3-D. From that, they were able to perform the delicate surgery and save her life.

Here’s an excerpt from Howard Cohen’s recent Miami Herald article, “A Virtual Miracle in Miami for Minnesota Couple’s ‘Inoperable’ Infant”:

Virtual reality imaging, using an iPhone tucked inside a Google Cardboard device, which looks like the box a Baby Boomer’s childhood View-Master came in, was used for the first time to plan Teegan’s complex pediatric procedure on Dec. 10. The Google Cardboard turns a smartphone into a low-cost stereoscopic virtual reality viewer that doctors can use to convert a two-dimensional CT scan into a three-dimensional model of a tiny heart. The image is uploaded and used in the operating room for the clearest view in which to make delicate repairs.

Dr. Redmond Burke, Nicklaus’ director of cardiovascular surgery, performed the delicate operation. In Burke’s words:

“There are certainly more expensive technologies you could use to look at virtual imaging, but I thought this was really elegant because it’s essentially a cardboard box.”

For the full story, read the Miami Herald article, “A Virtual Miracle in Miami for Minnesota Couple’s ‘Inoperable’ Infant.”

Want a pair for yourself? The Google Cardboard viewer specification is open source so you can either buy a kit or make your own.

friday-think-2015-wideDuring the week we scour the news for the hottest stories on innovation. Our feature, The Friday Think, highlights one we’ve found particularly fascinating.

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  • Portrait of Tracy Romoser. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.
    Tracy Romoser is a communications officer and the blog editor at PATH.