Virtual Reality Surgery Training on a Global Scale

February 13, 2018
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Virtual Reality Surgery Training

Virtual reality is mainly known as leading 3D technology used in the gaming industry for the best VR games for adults, but it can also be used as an effective teaching tool in the medical world. In fact, many schools all over the world now use virtual reality surgery training programs to give students a hands-on experience performing complicated surgical procedures.

Changes in Med School Training

Virtual reality is quickly changing the world we know, introducing VR manufacturing, gaming, entertainment, training, and even safety inspections. This type of technology is quickly creeping into every market, but we’ve found that its place in the medical field can lead not only to better-trained surgeons and physicians, but it also offers a higher surgical success rate overall.

Many schools are closing down their anatomy labs and no longer use cadavers to teach their students, opting to use virtual reality systems instead.

The med student will wear the best VR headset and view the different systems of the body including blood vessels, muscle, tissue, and skin, in 3D.

Fundamental Virtual Reality, a company based in London, and it has created a program that uses haptic feedback to train students without the student having to test out their new surgical skills on a patient. This system combines the company’s software and the HoloLens headset with a stylus that’s connected to a mechanical arm.

In the virtual reality world, the stylus is a syringe, with a button used to refill the syringe and another button to empty it. When the student moves the stylus, in the simulation they’re moving the syringe. When the needle makes contact with the VR skin, bone, or flesh, the different types of resistance are transmitted via the stylus. The idea behind this feature is that different elements in the body, such as bone or fat, should feel very different.

The drug company Pacira created the first system designed to replicate a knee arthroscopy, with the intention of teaching doctors how to perform a procedure with the use of their anesthesia called Exparel. Unlike regular types of anesthesia where large doses are injected all at once and spread out, the new drug is injected in a number of doses and stays mainly in the area of the injection site. But for some, this type of change was hard to grasp, which is why Pacira designed and developed their virtual reality teaching tool. During the development process, imagery was created by taking several images of a knee to design the 3D counterpart.

But building this type of system, one that’s comprised of both technological and human smarts, was a complicated process. In order to create the virtual reality setup for the knee replacement surgery, Pacira met with several leading orthopedic surgeons for each step of the process.

Surgery is about art and science, and when it comes to art, there are always different opinions. As you can tell, this project took some time to complete. Surgeons were brought in to offer feedback regarding the experience of real-life surgery. This knee arthroscopy system is currently being used by surgeons in centers all over the country, and it works to help these top surgeons to refine their techniques.

How VR is Making a Difference in Med Schools

In VR if you end up plunging a scalpel too deeply, no one is injured, and no tissue or nerves are damaged, but at the same time you immediately realize your mistake and are able to do it over again until you get the technique down, and that’s the beauty of using virtual reality technology as a teaching tool in surgical training programs.

Once virtual reality becomes more common and more affordable, virtual reality and haptics can be used to create models of individual patients before they undergo a complicated or experimental surgery.

If technology allows surgeons to create a VR 3D model of a specific patient’s kidney, one that the surgeon could move around, inspect, explore and use to come up with a strategy, it would allow them to perform the most effective and efficient surgery, it would also significantly improve patient safety.

The Future of Virtual Reality in the Medical World

Virtual reality’s future in the medical field will be a mix of teaching professionals how to perform experimental surgeries, and teaching students how to perform high volume routine operations. It will also teach surgeons how to understand special procedures that some surgeons have only seen once or twice in their career.

A Higher Success Rate

Many experts in the medical field believe that the implementation of virtual reality programs designed to teach surgeons how to safely perform more complicated surgical procedures can be the best way to reduce the fatality rate that occurs with high-risk surgeries. Especially if the technology continues to advance and allows surgeons to order an MRI scan for patients so that they can upload real images of a patient’s organs, limbs, tissue, and bone, in order to experiment in a virtual reality environment and choose the best surgical option for that particular patient.

The addition of virtual reality in the medical world is nothing short of exciting. With the current leaps in this type of technology, the possibilities really do seem endless.

A Better Way to Learn

You’d be surprised to learn how limited a new surgeon is when it comes to surgical training, outside working on a cadaver or viewing and assisting in surgeries.

Often, many new surgeons find themselves lacking the experience they need to feel confident when performing surgical procedures. But virtual reality can be the answer they’ve been searching for.

Many lead virtual reality companies have seen the value in creating software programs and the best VR headsets designed specifically with the surgeon or med student in mind.

In just a few short years more and more schools will begin to implement these tools into their surgical training programs, providing students with a better hands-on approach that allows them to easily perfect their techniques working in a VR environment, using the top medical VR apps and equipment.


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