Surgical Theater, a provider of medical virtual reality, will present its first-of-its kind virtual reality surgical visualization platform for neurosurgery at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference (GTC 2016), today, April 6, in Silicon Valley. The company says its VR medical visualization solution supports all elements of patient care from the exam room to the operating room by way of its immersive VR-based system – and that Surgical Theater’s technology lets today’s and tomorrow’s physicians plan, prepare and perform brain surgery while empowering and engaging their patients along the journey.

Joining the conversations about how NVIDIA GPUs are driving the future in the visual and immersive worlds of gaming, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars and now brain surgery, Dr. Neil Martin, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at UCLA, will slip on the HTC Vive virtual reality headset and delve into his experiences using VR in the session, “Lessons Learned from VR Navigation in Neurosurgery at UCLA.” Alon Geri, co-founder and EVP Engineering of Surgical Theater, and expert in jet flight simulation for the Israeli Military, will join him.

Neurosurgeons, like pilots, can now “fly through” their patients’ anatomy and perform complex operations in virtual reality before making the first incision. Surgical theater says this technology is game changing for neurosurgeons because no brain is the same, especially when facing neurological disorders and cerebrovascular diseases.

Surgical Theater combines jet-flight simulation technology with the patient’s own anatomy scans, using medical imaging such as MRI and CT, to create a VR reconstruction of the individual patient anatomy that allows for multiple levels of interaction and immersion from swiping fingers across a touch screen to donning a VR headset.

“Surgical Theater provides an immersive and memorable situational awareness when navigating through the inner space of the patient’s brain,” according to Martin, who says he uses this technology in pre-operative planning, patient consultations and intra-operatively in the operating room.

“Flying through the patient’s brain and having the ability to circumnavigate the tumor to see how the surrounding tissue, arteries or the optic nerve could be connected is critical to planning the removal procedure,” says Martin. “It stays with you. So the terrain of the patient’s brain is familiar in surgery, which can enhance performance, reduce risk, and improve the overall outcome and timing of the surgery.”

When wearing the VR headset, a VR-empowered patient can tour and walk into the space between vascular structures and can literally stand between arteries and the tumor. For example, when the patient will turn his head to the right, he will see the tumor; to the left, he will see the artery; looking down toward feet his feet, he will see the skull base. It lets the patient physically walk together with the surgeon down a planned surgical path or minimally invasive corridor to fully understand the safety and benefits of less invasive surgical approaches.

The conventional method used in patient consultations entails seeing the 2D, flat black-and-white images used in most medical institutions, which is a stark contrast to the Surgical Theater VR platform. And the company says studies show well-informed and educated patients are more likely to have favorable outcomes.

NVIDIA pioneered the GPU (the graphics processing unit), the visual cortex of the computer that drives high-performance graphics in immersive environments. The GPU boosts rendering medical images from 2D to VR reconstruction that enables the neurosurgeon to fly smoothly and dynamically through patient’s brain anatomy in real time.