Dr Redmond Burke Google Cardboard 2 screenshot WFOR

Doctors were able to perform life saving heart surgery on a four-month-old girl thanks to a smartphone and a cardboard box.

Teegan Lexcen was born with only one lung and half a heart. Doctors in Minnesota told her parents that surgery was impossible–and the little girl wouldn’t live long.

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But another team of doctors in Florida came up with an idea that let them carefully plan a successful surgery.

Google Cardboard is a $20 gadget that turns a smartphone into a set of virtual reality goggles. A smartphone, fits inside and lets the viewer see images in 3D, as if you are walking around them.

Google Cardboard Heart Surgery screenshot WFOR
Photos via WFOR News video

Doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami loaded images from MRI scans into an app called Sketchfab and put on the Google Cardboard goggles. By turning their heads and moving around inside the images with the goggles, doctors could see the heart from all angles — and devise a strategy to repair the damage.

Dr. Redmond Burke and his team had used 3D printed models in the past to plan previously-perilous heart surgeries, but this time their printer was broken–and time was running out. They brainstormed and came up with the idea of using Google Cardboard, which actually worked better than the previous method.

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Unlike a 3D model that would have only shown doctors the little girl’s heart, surgeons were able to see other organs, and Teegan’s ribcage, too.

The contraption let Dr. Burke invent a completely new surgical technique, tailored specifically to the little girl. He was able to make less invasive incisions and ran into no surprises that could lead to extra complications.

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“It was mind-blowing,” Cassidy Lexcen, Teegan’s mother, said. “To see this little cardboard box and a phone, and to think this is what saved our daughter’s life.”

(WATCH the video below from WFOR News – Learn more at CNN *Warning: adjust your speakers as CNN video autoplays)

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