Stanford doctors take virtual look inside patients

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Between caring for her horses and raising her daughter, Sandi Rodoni, lives a physical lifestyle on her Central Valley ranch. But recently, that lifestyle was threatened when she was diagnosed with an aneurism on her brain.

"I hadn't ridden since this happened, not wanting a horse especially to bang into me or anything, she says.

Rodoni turned to Stanford Hospital for treatment. But long before she reached the operating room, neurosurgeon Dr. Gary Steinberg, M.D., Ph.D. was already inside her head, literally touring her brain in virtual reality.

"This is reality. We call it virtual reality but this is the patient's own anatomy," says Dr. Steinberg.

The technology is known as surgical theater. It works by combining images from several sources like MRI and CT scans and turning them into a virtual reality model. Malie Collins, M.S., is the senior virtual reality program lead at Stanford.

"So when you put those together, the resulting cubes are high resolution finely detailed true to the anatomy and the pathology of the patients," says Collins.

The 3D views are so precise dr. Steinberg says they can be used to both plan and perform the surgery.

"In this case we can practice coming in from a certain angle, figure out how we're going to put the clip on the aneurism," explains Dr. Steinberg.

While performing surgery, Dr.Steinberg and his team use the surgical theater in the operating room double checking anatomy and closely following the plan they've laid out.

"When we get to the surgery, it's as if we've been there before," he says.

After several hours they delicately place a titanium clip to seal off the bulging aneurism from the artery, greatly reducing the chance of a dangerous hemorrhage. And turning the virtual, into a life-changing realty for Sandi Rodoni.

"I'll have more confidence to go out and do things with my horses, with my daughter, even ride again," says a smiling Rodoni.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.
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