Nightly News   |  March 30, 2013

Apps help ease surgery anxiety

With the help of mobile apps and cameras, some doctors are helping their patients get through surgeries with less anxiety, by giving them a preview of what they’ll face. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> let's face it, no one looks forward to having surgery. for most patients, it's a leap into the unknown, something well beyond their control. but now with the help of mobile apps and cameras, some doctors are helping their patients get through it with less anxiety. by giving them a preview of what they face. nbc's chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman shows us how.

>> reporter: scarface, the godfather, victor is so used to playing the tough guy, not so tough after seeing his heart disease up close.

>> you're showing me a picture of a heart. it was yellow and a lot of guck in there.

>> reporter: dr. rob mitch ler knows every person who lands on his table would rather be anywhere but here.

>> put the camera in there.

>> reporter: so he came up with a tool to demist fi surgery. the world-class surgeon films his operations to make what he calls movie trailers for his patients, to put them at ease. what is it about the fear component of heart surgery ?

>> people understand that this is a life-and-death situation. without the surgery, they could die. and there is a risk with it. we're just going to go into my office --

>> reporter: marion needs a valve replaced in her heart.

>> let's look here on the ipad.

>> reporter: the images are graphic.

>> here i'm placing a suture, right in the annulus. you can tell the difference.

>> reporter: dr. mish ler showing in minute detail how he will fix her heart. does this help alleviate any fears you have about what this surgery entails when you can look at it so graphically?

>> yes. but i'm still worried about it, because you're getting operated on.

>> that's the sign of an intelligent patient.

>> reporter: remember the old board game "operation,"? touch surgery, an app doctors can use with their patients. robin goodman hopes pocketed technology can help the 10 million americans who are so afraid of doctors that they never seek medical advice .

>> they deal with reality rather than their fears and fantasy sgls you actually saved my life, i guess, because i was a goner.

>> the pictures, they scared you, but they helped you understand what the problem was, right?

>> they convinced me.

>> reporter: high-tech tools that strengthen the bedside bond between doctor and patient.

>> so what do we do in italy?

>> we start the ball.

>> reporter: dr. nancy snyderman , nbc news, new york.