July 29, 2022

Radiology in the Metaverse

Written by Bryant Chang, BS, MS, MS3, Drexel University College of Medicine

Edited by Ronak Ahir, BS

Is the metaverse the next big medical revolution? Perhaps, but it will likely take time before the concept and technology are as widely adopted as technologies like telemedicine or medical wearable devices. Still, although it is very much in its infancy, there have already been numerous applications and use cases where the metaverse represents a promising front for innovation. Similar to how the introduction of telemedicine changed healthcare delivery, the metaverse has the potential to be a massive technological gamechanger for healthcare.

What Is the Metaverse?

At its core, the metaverse is an open, shared and persistent visual representation of reality by the means of virtual reality (VR) software. This typically involves users wearing a head-mounted display device or using their smartphones. Users receive sensory input through visual, auditory and haptic sensors in order to interact with the virtual environment and other users. Users can also participate in virtual activities in the metaverse that translate to real experiences and results in the physical world. This ability to immerse users has been the basis behind the excitement for the metaverse’s applications in healthcare.

Current Applications of the Metaverse in Radiology

Virtual reality is already utilized in diagnostic and interventional radiology practice and training, as well as patient education1. Radiologists traditionally rely on two-dimensional imaging, but VR can be used as a supplement to slice-based imaging. VR platforms have been shown to provide immersive three-dimensional experiences that aid in diagnosis2. The metaverse can also be used as a tool for collaboration. VR spaces can be designed such that physicians and other healthcare professionals can inhabit a shared virtual space. While in the metaverse, users can discuss medical data that is represented as a mutually interactable visualization in front of users. While this can be accomplished by occupying the same physical space in the real world, the metaverse allows for collaborative experiences between remote locations3.

The metaverse can be utilized at each of the many levels of medical education, including by medical students, radiology residents and attending physicians. VR technologies have been used to supplement radiology training and allow for communication with colleagues, as well as aid in planning interventional radiology procedures. The key advantage that metaverse technologies have over traditional education delivery platforms is immersion. Immersing users in a virtual environment is associated with increased active learning participation due to an improved environmental and personal presence during the learning experience1. For example, companies have built digital surgery metaverses, which enable users to import, visualize and automatically segment medical images to create accurate three-dimensional representations. These segmented 3D models can be used to aid medical diagnosis, anatomical measuring and treatment planning. This allows clinicians to simulate a patient’s unique pathology in a VR metaverse and leverage the metaverse’s immersive capabilities to render greater image visualization and manipulation2.

There is a plethora of educational applications of the metaverse, which include creation of problem-based virtual learning environments to ensure competency in contrast-enhanced ultrasound procedures4. This allows medical students to explore anatomy together on a shared virtual platform5 and aids in training interventional radiology residents with immersive VR software6. The metaverse has even seen use in residency applications and recruitment7.

Use case scenarios of the metaverse are not just limited to medical training. VR solutions have been developed to help reduce patient anxiety before procedures. One such instance is the implementation of a metaverse-based immersive environment, a “hospital metaverse”, designed to comfort younger patients prior to their visits8. Another metaverse experience developed in South Korea entails a virtual reality education delivered before chest radiography and was demonstrated to improve pediatric patient experience by reducing anxiety, distress and procedure time, as well as increase parent satisfaction9. VR has also been used to help patients understand anatomic and pathologic features by using 3D virtual models based on their unique anatomy. Other uses include immersing patients in imaging and interventional radiology suite workspaces, which allows patients to better orient themselves to interventional radiology procedures and decrease anxiety1.

The Future of the Metaverse

While metaverse technology has many potential benefits, it is important to understand its limitations. Like any emerging technology, the metaverse presents some potential challenges. One obstacle for adopting the metaverse will be ensuring that patients’ confidential information is safe and secure. HIPAA guidelines have evolved with the advent of telehealth. Once there is greater adoption of the metaverse, guidelines and policies will need to be updated to address the different set of privacy concerns associated with using shared digital spaces. Whether patients feel at ease to communicate and interact with the metaverse remains to be seen on a larger scale as well. However, initial results seem promising, as evidenced by increased patient satisfaction in the context of VR solutions. Another issue is interoperability, or the ability for different metaverses to communicate between each other. Communication and data standards change with time, and it is unclear whether the healthcare industry will be ready for broad adoption.

Challenges associated with implementing the metaverse in radiology include the difficulty in procuring the hardware needed to use the technology, as well as developing the platforms on which to utilize the metaverse. Compared to traditional educational delivery methods such as textbooks or online resources, the cost of VR technology can be high. These expenses typically fall under two categories — the cost of developing or purchasing content and the hardware necessary to interface with the metaverse. For the most immersive experiences, hardware must be capable of high-quality visual, audio and haptic feedback. Although next-generation hardware devices continue to address these technological challenges and can be expected to become more affordable over time, real-time high-fidelity image rendering still has much to improve upon, and automatic setup and calibration of VR hardware becomes essential when millimeter precision is required2.

Despite being developed for entertainment and recreation, the metaverse has the potential to transform the healthcare industry. It is an immersive technology with great potential for advancing the field of radiology and across the entire healthcare spectrum. Nevertheless, there will be challenges that motivate stakeholders to pay close attention to the many new shifting developments of the metaverse. By anticipating these potential pitfalls, radiologists can be well positioned to take advantage of this technology to improve patient care and practice.


  1. Uppot RN, Laguna B, McCarthy CJ, et al. Implementing Virtual and Augmented Reality Tools for Radiology Education and Training, Communication, and Clinical Care. Radiology. 2019;291(3):570-580. doi:10.1148/radiol.2019182210
  2. Pires, F., Costa, C. & Dias, P. On the Use of Virtual Reality for Medical Imaging Visualization. J Digit Imaging 34, 1034–1048 (2021). doi.org/10.1007/s10278-021-00480-z
  3. Sutherland J, Belec J, Sheikh A, et al. Applying Modern Virtual and Augmented Reality Technologies to Medical Images and Models. J Digit Imaging. 2019;32(1):38-53. doi:10.1007/s10278-018-0122-7
  4. Jacobsen N, Larsen JD, Falster C, et al. Using Immersive Virtual Reality Simulation to Ensure Competence in Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound. Ultrasound Med Biol. 2022;48(5):912-923. doi:10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2022.01.01
  5. Rudolphi-Solero T, Jimenez-Zayas A, Lorenzo-Alvarez R, Domínguez-Pinos D, Ruiz-Gomez MJ, Sendra-Portero F. A team-based competition for undergraduate medical students to learn radiology within the virtual world Second Life. Insights Imaging. 2021;12(1):89. Published 2021 Jun 29. doi:10.1186/s13244-021-01032-3
  6. McCarthy CJ, Yu AYC, Do S, Dawson SL, Uppot RN. Interventional Radiology Training Using a Dynamic Medical Immersive Training Environment (DynaMITE). J Am Coll Radiol. 2018;15(5):789-793. doi:10.1016/j.jacr.2017.12.038
  7. Guichet PL, Huang J, Zhan C, et al. Incorporation of a Social Virtual Reality Platform into the Residency Recruitment Season. Acad Radiol. 2022;29(6):935-942. doi:10.1016/j.acra.2021.05.024
  8. https://vrscout.com/news/hospital-metaverse-building-a-childrens-health-center-in-vr/
  9. Han SH, Park JW, Choi SI, et al. Effect of Immersive Virtual Reality Education Before Chest Radiography on Anxiety and Distress Among Pediatric Patients: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(11):1026-1031. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.3000