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While consumer VR remains a niche product and a massive money-burning venture for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, CNBC reports that the technology is proving to be valuable in certain corners of health care. Kettering Health Dayton is one of dozens of health systems in the U.S. working with emerging technologies like VR as one tool for helping doctors to train on and treat patients.

Just days before assisting in his first major shoulder-replacement surgery last year, Dr. Jake Shine strapped on a virtual reality headset and got to work. As a third-year orthopedics resident at Kettering Health Dayton in Ohio, Shine was standing in the medical center’s designated VR lab with his attending physician, who would oversee the procedure.

Both doctors were wearing Meta Quest 2 headsets as they walked through a 3D simulation of the surgery. The procedure, called a reverse total shoulder arthroplasty, can last around two hours and requires surgeons to carefully navigate around neurovascular structures and the lungs.

For its orthopedics program, Kettering Health Dayton uses software developed by PrecisionOS, a company that builds VR modules for training surgeons, medical residents and medical device representatives. PrecisionOS co-founder and CEO, Dr. Danny Goel, said the company has nearly 80 customers across the globe.

Orthopedics residents at the University of Rochester also use PrecisionOS. Dr. Richard Miller, a retired professor at the university, said the software is “sophisticated” and “very realistic,” especially as a way to learn the steps of a procedure. He finds it so compelling that he’s been actively helping the orthopedics department implement the technology even though he retired three years ago.

Jan Herzhoff, Elsevier Health’s president, is quoted as saying that her company’s Complete HeartX mixed reality offering ”will help prepare medical students for clinical practice by using hyper-realistic 3D models and animations that help them understand and visualize medical issues, such as ventricular fibrillation, and how to apply their knowledge with patients.”

To date, one of the primary applications of VR in health care has been targeted at pain treatment.

“It’s very hard to keep track of pain when you’re in a fantastical cyberdelic world,” said Dr. Brennan Spiegel, director of health services research at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. Spiegel said that when someone is injured, there is both a physical and an emotional component to their pain. Those signals are sent to two different parts of the brain, and VR can serve to tamp down the signals in both regions. “It’s training people how to modify their spotlight of attention so they can swing it away from the painful experiences,” Spiegel said. “Not just the physical, but the emotional experiences.”

Spiegel said Cedars-Sinai is preparing to launch a virtual platform to help people with gastrointestinal issues like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease or acid reflux, as well as others for anxiety, addiction and perimenopausal health.

The technology has also attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is using extended reality at more than 160 facilities to help patients with pain management, behavioral therapy and both physical and cognitive rehabilitation. Caitlin Rawlins, the immersive program manager at the VA, said there are currently more than 40 separate use cases for the technology across the agency’s different sites. The VA first introduced extended reality in a limited capacity around 2015, and has found more opportunities to put it to use as the technology has improved.

“I’ve seen it change a whole lot,” Rawlins told CNBC in an interview. “The first virtual reality headset that I used was this big clunky headset that had all these wires it had to be connected to a laptop to function.”

Rawlins said what drew her to extended reality was seeing the immediate response from patients. She recalled the first time she watched a patient use VR. He was a man in his 80s who had just undergone knee replacement surgery. The pain was so severe that opioids didn’t help, Rawlins said.

After mere minutes in VR, he told Rawlins he couldn’t feel the pain in his leg anymore.

″Just using that for a simple 30-minute session can mean the difference between excruciating pain, unable to do the exercises and the ambulation that they need to, to actually get up and move and get ready to go home,” she said.