British patient to undergo world's first virtual reality streamed operation


A British cancer patient is set to have his operation live streamed using virtual reality technology in a world first.

Viewers will be able to watch the ground-breaking surgery next month using a smartphone and virtual reality headset, making them feel as if they are in the operating theatre.

Using several specialist cameras placed above the operating table the surgery will be broadcast live from The Royal London Hospital on April 14 and will last between two and three hours.

Shafi Ahmed, who has championed virtual reality technology in surgery will perform the operation and called it a "gamechanger" for healthcare innovation and education.

The patient, a British man in his 70s who is suffering from cancer of the colon, is said to be "excited" about the prospect of having his operation watched by thousands of people across the globe.

The immersive broadcast will run a minute or so behind the surgery in case of any unforeseen complications.

It isn't the first time Dr Ahmed has revolutionised surgery - in 2014 he became the first surgeon to live stream an operation whilst wearing Google Glass and has also experimented with 360-degree cameras.

Virtual reality is set to be the major technology trend of 2016, with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg calling it the future of communicating and socialising.

The billionaire founder of the social network called headset-based technology "the next platform", as he launched the Oculus Rift and Google has released a self-assembling kit called Cardboard which works by simply placing your smartphone in it.

Dr Ahmed, consultant surgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital said the technology will "address the global inequalities in surgical health and will allow trainees and surgeons to connect and train remotely across the world".

He added: "It showcases virtual reality for what it should be used for - education. Trainees usually struggle to see over a surgeon's shoulder during an operation or have to stand in the corner and that way of learning has been accepted for the last hundred years.

"This is a game changer and they can see if anything goes wrong how we react to it."

The operation will be streamed from 1pm on Thursday April 14 from The Royal London Hospital in partnership with Medical Realities and livestreaming service Matavision.