New tech gives par­ents a vir­tual re­al­ity peek in­side the womb

Modern Healthcare - - OUT LIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Amother can now ex­pe­ri­ence, first­hand, what her fe­tus sees and hears in her own womb with the help of an Ocu­lus Rift 2 head­set.

Brazil­ian re­searchers have de­vel­oped a way to im­merse par­ents in the pre­na­tal ex­pe­ri­ence via vir­tual re­al­ity vi­su­al­iza­tions of their un­born ba­bies.

Lead re­searcher Dr. Heron Werner Jr., an OB-GYN spe­cial­iz­ing in fe­tal medicine at a Rio de Janeiro clinic, told STAT News that he and his team are look­ing to li­cense the tech­nol­ogy to a large U.S. med­i­cal imag­ing com­pany.

The tech­nol­ogy could help guide med­i­cal de­ci­sions for fe­tuses with po­ten­tial health prob­lems, Werner said. In his re­search, the 3-D vi­su­al­iza­tions helped iden­tify ab­nor­mal­i­ties, such as cleft lips, tu­mors and her­nias.

While this vir­tual re­al­ity tool might sound like a wild ride for any par­ent, its use will likely be re­served for a small num­ber of cases in which doc­tors sus­pect health is­sues. It has only been tested in about 30 preg­nan­cies at a Rio clinic so far.

Dr. Joshua Copel, a Yale OB-GYN unas­so­ci­ated with the re­search, cau­tioned against wide­spread use just yet.

“What we don’t want is for peo­ple to say, ‘We’re go­ing to do this for every fe­tal anom­aly,’ ’’ Copel told STAT. “It’s not go­ing to be help­ful for some.”

Copel also said vary­ing body types among women in dif­fer­ent parts of the world could make the tech­nol­ogy more or less ef­fec­tive; a higher av­er­age body mass in­dex could im­pair vi­su­al­iza­tion data.

This 3-D mod­el­ing tech­nique might of­fer path­ways to bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of fe­tal anatom­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics, such as the fe­tal res­pi­ra­tory tract, and could have both ed­u­ca­tion and com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions.

The tech­nol­ogy was pre­sented at the an­nual meet­ing of the Ra­di­o­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of North Amer­ica Nov. 30. Werner said he plans to do more test­ing be­fore pub­lish­ing his team’s re­search find­ings in a sci­en­tific jour­nal.

The tech­nol­ogy en­ables par­ents to get a 3-D look at a de­vel­op­ing fe­tus.

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