US VR healthcare market grew by $450 million since 2012

The VR in healthcare market in the United States has grown from $525 million in 2012 to an estimated $976 million in 2017, according to healthcare market research firm Kalorama.

The firm estimates that the VR/AR in healthcare market will continue to grow at roughly the same pace in the US over the coming years.

“The term ‘virtual reality’ is used in different contexts,” said Emil Salazar, analyst at Kalorama and author of the report.

“Broadly, virtual reality is the means or capability to visualise and manipulate, or otherwise interact with, digital data representative of a real-world entity or environment. This digital data representatives are called virtual environments or VEs. VEs in healthcare would be an operating room, surgical site, patient anatomy or therapeutic simulation.”

Key areas

The majority of applications in the VR in healthcare market have been in surgery, medical education, professional training, physical rehabilitation, pain management and behavioural therapy.

The three main areas are:


The main development in this area has been the use of VR in conjunction with robot-assisted orthopaedic surgery.

An example of this is the Stryker Mako system highlights bone sections during surgical planning for implant placement, which then becomes an interactive template during the procedure itself. While the surgeon holds the surgical instrument in their hand, the system provides resistance to ensure that they never stray out of the highlighted area.

The system then updates the virtual model in real-time as the procedure occurs. Not only does this help increase the precision of orthopaedic procedures, it also helps mitigate against excessive bone removal.

Pain management

As we previously reported, studies are showing that immersive experiences have a pronounced effect on pain relief and management for patients.

Immersive experiences mean that the patient is actively focusing on the pain less, which has applications in painful, post-operation procedures such as wound cleaning and needle insertion.

Future developments could see olfactory inputs and haptic feedback added to these kinds of experiences.

Medical education

There are numerous companies offering headset-based surgical training, and AR products that relate to surgical planning and rehearsal.

Image fusion of multiple image modalities gives medical professionals 3D and patient-specific anatomy that can be accessed in AR on computer screens, or in VR using headsets or smartphone-based headsets.