CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) — A doctor at the University of Virginia Health System has used virtual reality to help thyroid patients.

The interventional radiologist used the technology to increase the availability of a less-invasive treatment option.

According to a release, Ziv Haskal, MD, has created an 11-minute virtual-reality experience as another step in the VR studio he is developing for the university and a series of high-tech educational materials for physicians, trainees and patients.

This work is partly backed by a grant from UVA’s Office of Graduate Medical Education.

Haskal thinks this technique will offer physicians a better way to learn and can accelerate the adoption of new procedures, which would make such advances available to patients more quickly.

He has already debuted an education video that features Auh Whan Park, MD to treat benign thyroid nodules with ablation to about 200 physicians who were wearing VR headsets at the Symposium on Clinical Interventional Oncology in Miami.

Thermal ablation of these nodules is less invasive procedure using heat that is delivered by a special probe to shrink common non-cancerous lumps in the thyroid.

The release says this produces less scarring, is less disfiguring, leads to a shorter recovery time, and may protect the function of the thyroid better than other procedures.

While this procedure is currently performed widely outside of the United States, UVA is pioneering its use in this country, though at this time it is not typically covered by insurance.

Haskal says he hoes the 360-degree video, supplemented by inset videos, close-ups, educational materials and animations will be able to heighten the physicians’ awareness and interest in the procedure.

He says he wants to have interventional radiologists say they can see themselves performing this.

The release adds patients already comes in from across the country to be treated with thyroid ablation, which means UVA can also be a training center for physicians to learn the procedure.

Haskal says, along with providing more in-depth introductions and training tools, he believes his goal of establishing a VR studio at UVA can provide broader benefits.

He is already beginning to test these kinds of videos to ease patient anxiety before they undergo an interventional radiology procedure.