Use of Virtual Reality for Complex Heart Procedures Featured on Cincinnati Edition

Post Date: February 4, 2022


Dr. Ryan Moore at Cincinnati Children’s is a leader in developing virtual reality methods to improve outcomes in complex pediatric heart procedures


Brayden, a 12-year-old boy born with a a single pumping heart chamber, received successful surgery to repair his heart defect. Surgeons used VR technology to plan the procedure and Brayden took a virtual walk through his own heart to learn what the surgeons planned to do.

The doctors leading the way in the use of virtual reality and digital animation for surgical procedures at Cincinnati Children’s discussed how this technology is advancing their capability to perform complex cardiovascular procedures on Jan. 26, 2022, on WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition, hosted by Lucy May.

David Morales, MD, and Ryan Moore, MD, first began taking images of patients’ hearts and converting them into 3D-printed models roughly 10 years ago.

With advancing technology, they are now able to take those scans and create a digital anatomic twin, allowing them to look at the models in a 3D, virtual space. This gives surgeons like Morales a unique perspective into the intricacies of their patients’ anatomy and equips them to plan more complex procedures in fine detail before even setting foot inside the operating room.

Utilizing this technology, which mirrors the capabilities of the video game and movie industry, required building an in-house team of talented developers and digital artists at Cincinnati Children’s.


David Morales, MD


Ryan Moore, MD

Virtual reality-based surgical planning is one component of an entirely data-driven, surgical performance platform being developed by Moore and Morales.

The platform is the first of its kind to be in utilized at a hospital and includes an artificial intelligence/machine learning tool to monitor perioperative outcomes and provide predictions about a patient’s trajectory. This tool will also allow the team to choose the optimal surgical approach for each individual patient when combining virtual reality surgical planning with artificial intelligence prediction algorithms.

Moore and Morales received funding* from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation Start-Up Fund in 2019 and again in 2021. The goal is to make the platform more commercially ready and adapted for adult medicine and other specialties.

Accompanying Morales and Moore for the segment were Brayden and his mother, Michelle.

Brayden was born with a single pumping heart chamber and underwent a complex procedure at Cincinnati Children’s in November 2021 to reroute the pathways in his heart and give function to his second chamber.

For many years, this type of procedure was not thought possible. However, the VR technology allowed Morales and Moore to virtually step inside Brayden’s heart, walk through it, and carefully plan each step, ultimately leading to a successful single-surgery fix.


Jeff Cimprich, a medical animator, at work in the Critical Care MediaLab.

According to Moore, another groundbreaking aspect of this technology is the way it allows pediatricians to help their patients better understand the medical treatment they’re receiving.

In Brayden’s case, he and his parents were brought in for a VR surgery consultation where they were each able to don headsets while the doctors walked through their plan for the surgery. By using VR and video game technology, the doctors were able to connect with Brayden in a way he understood, solving the ever-present issue of reaching parents but not necessarily patients themselves.

The consultation experience encouraged Brayden and his parents to trust Morales and Moore that moving forward with this procedure was the right decision.

In the end, the surgery was such a success that Brayden was able to go home earlier than expected, just in time for Christmas.

— Post by Bo McMillan, Cincinnati Children’s

*Funding for this project came from the State of Ohio, Ohio Development Services Agency, Ohio Third Frontier, Grant Control No. TECG2020-0252 and The Heart Institute, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Learn More

Listen to the Cincinnati Edition show

Watch a WLWT feature about Brayden

View a MediaLab demo reel

Read about the latest heart research at Cincinnati Children’s

Evidence supporting total cardiac volumes instead of weight for transplant size-matching. Szugye, NA; Morales, DL S; Lorts, A; Zafar, F; Moore, RA. Journal of Heart Transplantation2021.

About this blog

The Research Horizons blog features news and insights about the latest discoveries and innovations developed by the scientists of Cincinnati Children's. This blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.