Old Dominion partners with CHKD to develop virtual reality tool to treat chest deformities

Posted at 2:44 PM, Aug 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-04 08:51:45-04

NORFOLK, Va. – Old Dominion University is partnering with the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters to develop a virtual reality tool that helps treat patients with chest deformities.

Pectus excavatum is a condition in which a person’s breastbone is sunken into their chest, and pectus carinatum is an uncommon birth defect in which a child’s breastbone protrudes outward abnormally. Surgery is not always an option to correct these conditions.

“I was surprised at the methods they have been using to measure patient progress,” said Frederic McKenzie, professor and chair of the Department of Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Engineering (MSVE) in the Batten College of Engineering and Technology. “It’s really just a ruler placed on the chest which is not only very prone to error, but it’s not very informative, especially to young patients.

A team of students and faculty, led by McKenzie, has developed a 3D scanning tool designed to provide a more accurate measurement of a patient’s progress while also tracking their compliance. The tool enables patients and their parents to see chest improvement using a colorful game-like simulation that compares chest morphology from one point in time to another.

“Our collaborators at CHKD tell us that patients and parents just love this tool,” said McKenzie. “Children especially love seeing the chest improvement in a virtual reality way.”

According to Dr. Robert Kelly, chief of the department of surgery at CHKD, treatment of PE and PC is a slow process that can take sometimes years to correct.

“The treatment progress is slow, especially for a teenager,” he said. “The scanner and software developed by the team at ODU have been very helpful in getting patients to stay the course because it provides a colorful 3D image that gives a much more accurate picture of progress. More importantly for us, the topographical map of the patient’s chest provides a much better snapshot as to the severity of the condition, which lets us know if and when surgery is required.”

This tool has attracted the attention of hospitals across the globe, including China, Korea and France.