Doctors initially told the parents of Teegan Lexcen, a baby girl born with one lung and half a heart four months ago in Minnesota, that her case was inoperable. Determined to help their daughter live, her parents sought out the help of a team of doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, who applied ingenious problem solving to the latest gadgetry from Google.
Dr. Juan-Carlos Muniz, head of MRI at the hospital, worked with surgeon Dr. Redmond Burke in the breakthrough operation. The 2D MR images of Teegan’s heart showed the anatomy of the organ, but her medical caretakers needed 3D images to better understand where incisions should be made. Although Dr. Burke’s team had used a 3D printer in the past, the printer was malfunctioning and time was scarce.
Enter Google Cardboard, a $20 device that transforms a smartphone into virtual reality goggles. The doctors loaded the 2D MR images into an app called Sketchfab, and were able to view, in 3D, more finely detailed images than the previous methods they had been using.
“I looked inside and just by tilting my head I could see the patient’s heart. I could see it as if I were standing in the operating room,” said Dr. Muniz. The doctors credit the device’s help in enabling them to fully visualize the anatomy prior to operating was the key to the ultimately successful surgery.