Turner Farm Foundation Gives Cincinnati Children’s $2.7 Million for Personalized Virtual Reality Surgical Planning

The technology also enables the health system to partner and plan with teams worldwide in a surgical “metaverse.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The Turner Farm Foundation has generously gifted Cincinnati Children’s $2.7 million to expand its use of virtual surgical planning technology and enable the health system to partner and plan with teams worldwide in a “metaverse” environment.

Cardiothoracic surgeon, David Morales, MD, and pediatric imaging cardiologist, Ryan Moore, MD, lead the team utilizing virtual reality (VR) for surgical planning at Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute. The team creates anatomically identical “digital twin” hearts from more than 1,000 slices of imaging data that can be interacted with in an immersive, 3D space using a VR headset.

The technology allows care teams to not only walk through a 3D replica of their patient’s heart, but also individualize the surgeon’s plan before the child even enters the operating room. It has already led to novel surgical approaches being performed for the first time at Cincinnati Children’s and has also been used by the team to assist other centers in performing first-time procedures.

“Most VR tools on the market simply look at the patient anatomy, but we have created a brand-new, real-time digital technology that allows us to directly plan the surgeon’s approach on a digital twin replica of the patient’s heart to optimize their surgical outcome,” said Moore.

“Virtual reality provides a different perspective than what I can see in the operating room,” said Morales. “In there, I can only see the heart from the front and side, but with VR I can actually walk through the heart and plan out complex surgeries that we were not previously able to do or needed to do in stages.”

The Turner Farm Foundation is working closely with Moore and Morales and experts at the world-leading game engine company, Unity, to push the limits of digital innovations in healthcare. This technology also enables surgeons at Cincinnati Children’s to connect with others around the world to plan and practice procedures together in a single, virtual environment.

“When we learned about what Dr. Morales and Dr. Moore are doing, we knew: These are the people pushing medicine forward, and this is how they’re doing it. We want to be part of it,” says Chuck Mitsui, son of the Turner Farm Foundation’s founder.

“One of the many benefits of this technology is its ‘metaverse’ capabilities,” said Moore. “We are able to host multiple surgeons and cardiologists in the same virtual space, allowing them to connect with medical professionals from all over the world in real-time.”

“Now children born around the world can access the world-class care happening at Cincinnati Children’s, whenever they need it most,” said Mitsui.

About the Turner Farm Foundation

The Turner Farm Foundation promotes connections between people of all ages and the land that feeds them, in body, mind, and spirit. Through education and example, Turner Farm demonstrates that local, organic, low-impact food production grows healthy communities and ecosystems. Their operations foster recognition of personal responsibility for stewardship of the land, ourselves, and the development of a nurturing community.

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Bo McMillan