VR helping to

improve healthcare

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the UK. Optical colonoscopy is the preferred method of colonic examination – but it has many contraindications and the process is invasive. Computed tomography (CT) colonoscopy therefore offers an attractive alternative because of its minimally invasive nature. To aid this form of diagnosis, Research Associate Dr David Randall (PhD Image Processing 2017) has developed a system to enable clinicians to travel inside a patient’s colon, viewing its mucosal surface with an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

“CT colonoscopy, viewed on a 2D monitor, is a procedure performed routinely within the NHS where the structure of the colon is extracted from a CT image and its lumen is ‘flown through’,” said David. “While the radiologist transits the colon they look for pathological structures, for example polyps (pre-cancerous lumps). Reporting involves examination of both the CT data and virtual colonoscopy to reach diagnosis. We hope that by performing this examination with virtual reality technology we can offer potential improvements in efficiency and lesion detectability for CT colonoscopy examinations.”

Virtual reality technology offers improvements in efficiency.”

David showcased the system to a wide audience through his appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme when it was broadcast live from the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in January 2018.

The work was developed through a collaboration between the Medical Physics Group in the University’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease and the 3D Imaging Laboratory in the Medical Imaging and Medical Physics Directorate of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. It was supported by the University’s Think Ahead SURE programme and funded by Bardhan Research and Education Trust of Rotherham and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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