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VR tech used to predict surgery outcomes

VR technology helped a couple decide whether to go through with a risky surgery for their six-month-old son.

Amanda and Judd Michnowiec's son Archie was born with Sagittal Synostosis - a condition where the growth lines in his skull fused too early so it couldn't grow sideways to accommodate his brain as it expands with age, leading to a distorted head shape - and the parents had to decide whether to opt for the operation or allow nature to take its cause with potential physical and psychological effects.

Amanda said: "It's been quite overwhelming. There have been a lot of appointments, and a lot of time away [from work]".

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children offered the couple the chance to use a ground-breaking new artificial intelligence (AI) platform that predicts the outcome of a life-changing operation in virtual reality so they could see from all angles a reconstruction of Archie's head generated from a CT scan and what it would look like if the tot underwent the operation.

Amanda said after the consultation, which also allowed them to suggest modifications to the surgeon: "We're excited, and obviously there is always that worry with what he's going to have done.

"Although it's a lot to take in, it is reassuring to know that's what we've got to expect, and have that explained, and we're not going to be waiting and wondering what's happening."

Dr Noor Ul Owase Jeelani, a consultant paediatric neurosurgeon at the hospital, said the software means people can give "truly informed consent" before surgery.

He said: "Now, when they sign the consent form, it's what I would call truly informed consent.

"What I would like to see as a surgeon in 10, or perhaps 20 years' time, is that most surgical practice is done this way where the control, and the power, is very much given to the parents and the patients."

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