St Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa has become the first children’s hospital in the state of Florida and the only paediatric facility in the Southeast US to use the Surgical Theater Precision Virtual Reality (VR) technology in its paediatric neuro and cardiac surgery programmes.

The Surgical Theater Precision Virtual Reality programme uses F-16 flight simulator technology to combine CT and MRI images to create a 360-degree virtual model of a patient’s own anatomy.

St Joseph’s Children’s Hospital president Sarah Naumowich said: “The immersive technology provides our pediatric heart and brain surgeons with a never-before view of the anatomy and pathology of their patients’ complex conditions.

“With this cutting-edge digital tool, our surgeons have an unprecedented way to plan and strategize the best route for surgery.”

Using virtual reality headsets, surgeons guide a patient through a 360-degree model of their heart or brain to explain the condition, treatment options and risks in greater detail than ever before.

Naumowich said: “Being able to see what the doctor sees provides our patients and their families with a better understanding of the diagnosis, which helps alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that comes with preparing for brain or heart surgery.”

St Joseph’s Children’s Hospital is part of the BayCare Health System, a non-profit health care system that connects individuals and families to a range of services at 15 hospitals and hundreds of locations throughout the Tampa Bay and west central Florida regions.

The children’s hospital in Tampa claims to provide more acute medical and surgical paediatric care than all other hospitals in Hillsborough County.

BayCare Health System provides a wide range of inpatient and outpatient services, including acute care, primary care, imaging, laboratory, behavioural health, home care and wellness.

BayCare’s objective is to improve the health of all patients it serves through community-owned health care services.