February 22, 1996
Media Contact: John Cramer
Phone: (410) 955-1534

Johns Hopkins scientists are using virtual reality technology to guide treatment from the operating room to rehabilitation exercises for a range of muscle and skeletal disorders.

Using computer-based animation to create realistic images of what will happen to the body's musculoskeletal system under various conditions, virtual reality is a safe and powerful tool for patient care, research and education, according to the Hopkins investigators.

"Virtual reality models can help to plan surgeries, rehabilitation exercises and even correct baseball pitchers' throwing injuries," says Edmund Chao, the study's lead author and a professor of orthopedic research.

Chao and his colleagues in the Hopkins orthopedic biomechanics laboratory will present a scientific exhibit on their latest findings Feb. 22-25 at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons' annual meeting in Atlanta.

Hopkins scientists took magnetic resonance images (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans of a cadaver with no orthopedic problems to create computer-based models. Then researchers added data on stress, force, motion, contact in the joints, pressure on the joints and other factors to generate three-dimensional computer images. The images simulate how the muscles, bones and connective tissue that make up the body's joints would respond under different conditions. The images, in video or still pictures, are brightly colored and easily interpreted by orthopedic surgeons. By seeing what will happen before it happens through computer-aided predictions, doctors can decide on the most effective surgery or other therapy, say researchers.

"The use of virtual models in orthopedic research is still in the initial stage, but the advantages lie in the ability to provide realistic responses of the body under simulated normal and abnormal conditions," says Chao.

The study's other investigators were Bruce MacWilliams, Ph.D., Peter Barrance, M.S., Erick Genda, M.D., Michael Mont, M.D. and Antonio Valdevit, M.Sc. The study was funded by the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

-- JHMI --
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