Undergoing an ultrasound is an incredibly special moment for an expecting couple. This procedure allows them to see their child’s heartbeat and general shape for the very first time. In modern times, the blurry black and white Rorschach tests we’ve grown accustomed to have evolved into rich 3D models that provide more detail than ever before. And now, an additional jump in technology is allowing parents to meet their unborn child or children in immersive virtual reality.
According to The Telegraph, a new ultrasound technique is being used in certain cases that brings parents closer than ever before to their child. By combining the traditional ultrasound images with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to scan certain parts of the womb and create a highly detailed 3D model of the unborn fetus. Parents can then don a VR headset to interact with this model in ways they never could have before. They can reportedly even receive a 3D printing of their unborn child’s model.
This groundbreaking approach is being pioneered by Dr Heron Werner Jr. from the Clínica de Diagnóstico por Imagem, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. According to Dr. Werner:
“We believe that these images will bring a new experience for parents when following the development of their unborn child.”
“The 3D fetal models combined with virtual reality immersive technologies may improve our understanding of anatomical characteristics and can be used for educational purposes and as a method for parents to visualize their unborn baby.”
Dr. Werner and his team have been using the Oculus Rift headset for their study and found the device to be highly functional for their needs.
“The experience with the Oculus Rift has been wonderful,” Dr. Werner said. “It provides fetal images that are sharper and clearer than ultrasound and MRI images viewed on a traditional display.
“And the physicians can have access to an immersive experience on the clinical case that they are working on, having the whole internal structure of the fetus in 3D in order to better visualize and share the morphological information.”
Ultrasounds are memorable moments for parents but also highly important for physicians as well. Doctors need the best imaging possible to ensure a baby’s health while it is still in the womb, and to prepare for a healthy delivery down the line. Techniques like this, while fun for the parents, may also lead to healthier children and mothers in the future.
Image Credits: Radiological Society of North America