French neurosurgeons use Virtual Reality to map brain tumour during surgery

On 27 January, a brain tumour patient at Angers hospital wore a Virtual Reality (VR) headset during an awake craniotomy to allow neurosurgeons to 'map' his brain tumour as it was being removed.

Previously it has been difficult to accurately determine how vital functions such as speech and language are affected during surgery.

“In creating a completely artificial world for the patient, we could map certain zones and connections of his brain related to functions that we could not, up to now, easily test on the operating table,”
Philippe Menei, a neurosurgeon at Angers hospital, told the AFP news network.

In this particular surgery, the patient had already lost vision in one eye due to the brain tumour so doctors were keen to protect his remaining sight.

“By totally controlling what the patient sees and hears, we can put him in situations that allow us to do tests on certain (neural) connections that were not possible before,” said Menei.

“Such technology opens the way to greater precision, and allow us to envision procedures that were not possible up to now, such as the removal of otherwise inaccessible brain tumours.”