Cadillac eye care office uses VR headset to detect glaucoma News

CADILLAC — While the world of technology has continued to expand for the sake of entertainment, it’s also growing in the field of medicine. Family Eye Care in Cadillac has been using a virtual reality headset to detect glaucoma in minutes.

If you asked Dr. David Cook 25 years ago, he’d have said technology like this couldn’t be possible.

“You always hope that technology will make patient outcomes better, and typically it always does,” he said. “But it’s hard to see that far into the future that something like this would even be available.”

The virtual reality system, called Heru, was developed by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. Its purpose is to quickly, comfortably and efficiently identify any abnormalities in a patient’s vision, whether that be spots of blindness or ability to see color.

Cook decided to add the headset to his practice in December after reading about its invention in a medical journal.

Family Eye Care’s previous visual field test was a table unit and was just about ready to be replaced. With the headset, the test can now be completed anywhere with Wi-Fi. Cook said it also offers mobility for those who might have difficulty sitting at a table and resting their chin on the old mechanism.

Every patient can be screened when they arrive at the office to test for visual fields, color vision, dark adaptation and contrast sensitivity.

“If they have an underlying health issue, especially neurological, that they don’t know they have, we can pick those things up,” Cook said. “So like, pituitary adenomas would be one, multiple sclerosis, visual field defects, anything behind the eye and into the brain that can affect neurology, this is going to help screen for.”

Cook said the benefit for patients, aside from identifying health risks, is the swift and relaxing testing experience it provides.

First the headset is placed over the patient’s eyes and adjusted for comfort. Then, they’re handed a remote that has a button on top.

A screen will appear in the patient’s view that offers directions on how to complete the test, while playing ambient music and sounds of nature through the headset speakers.

For the visual fields test, a small white dot will be shown in the center of the screen. The patient is asked to follow this stable dot with their eye, and is then asked to click the remote every time they see a flashing white dot pop up in their peripheral.

When the test is completed, an immediate assessment is shown on-screen. That data is then saved in a cloud-based system which stays consistently up-to-date.

In the almost six months that Heru has been in the office, Cook said they haven’t picked up on too many severe cases, but there are a few patients whose lives have been saved because of the system.

One patient Cook recently worked with had been complaining of difficult reading. She decided to pay a visit to the office and have some screening done, and Cook discovered that the patient had a stroke and had no idea.

“She called within minutes of noticing the problem, came into the office, and we had her, within two hours, over to the ER, from when she started having symptoms,” Cook said. “And she was treated and has since recovered the majority of her visual field, because it was treated early.”

Another patient had a pituitary tumor identified with the visual fields test. Cook said he went from being unhappy and depressed to having a positive outlook on life after having the tumor surgically removed.

“It’s fairly rare to find such things,” Cook said. “But when you find them that makes a whole world of difference for that patient’s life.”

As of right now, Family Eye Care is amongst the first wave of offices to start using Heru, and Cook expects that others will be jumping on board as their old systems age out.


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