Enlarge / The virtual world can nicely supplement the real one. (credit: Chester Holme) Surgeons and their patients are finding that virtual reality can relieve the pain and stress of operations—and it’s safer and cheaper than sedatives.

For Mosaic, Jo Marchant travels to a Mexican mountaintop village to visit a clinic with a difference.

The story is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Ana Maria has never been to Machu Picchu.

The 61-year-old always wanted to visit the mountain ruins, but she suffers from hypertension, and doctors warned that the extreme altitude could cause her blood pressure to rise dangerously high.

Today, dressed in a white gown and hairnet, she will explore its ancient walls and pyramids for the first time.
She’s in a private medical clinic in Mexico City and laughs nervously as she’s wheeled into a windowless operating room.

The surgeon takes a Sharpie and draws a large circle on her left thigh, paints on several layers of iodine, then injects a local anaesthetic into the skin.
Inside the circle is a fatty lump, a lipoma around 6 cm across, which he is about to remove.
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