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Doctors train with surgical simulation program

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A virtual temporal bone surgery simulation system developed at Nationwide Children's Hospital and The Ohio State University (OSU), in conjunction with the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), has been used to train local doctors and students in Nicaragua. D. Richard Kang and Gregory Wiet, paediatric otolaryngologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University (OSU), visited Escuela Hospital Antonio Lenin Fonseca in Managua, Nicaragua, to treat children with serious ear, nose and throat conditions. As part of their visit, the two surgeons presented a ‘virtual temporal bone dissection’ course using the simulations.

‘The system creates real-time, interactive computer simulations for surgeons to learn the difficult and delicate surgical techniques associated with ear surgery, which involves drilling into a bone in the skull called the temporal bone,’ explained Don Stredney, senior research scientist for biomedical applications at OSC. ‘Because the temporal bone lies close to a major artery and critical nerves for the face, learning to perform the surgery can be tricky.’

Without a virtual simulation environment, medical residents would learn this surgery by working on cadavers and through apprenticeships in an operating room. Through multi-institution validation studies, Stredney and Wiet believe that this simulation technology will increase the efficiency of a resident’s training while also raising his or her proficiency. Ultimately, they assert, this innovation could provide a safe, cost-effective way to provide students with experience in the early stages of developing surgical technique.

The system makes use of a laptop computer with powerful graphics processing capability and a ‘haptic device’, which provides force feedback. This feature simulates the feel of the drill interacting with the temporal bone, the portion of the skull just behind the temples and above the ear. ‘With this type of training, surgeons are not only learning with their eyes, but also with their sense of touch,’ commented Wiet. ‘This could be an important tool in the learning process for surgeons to develop all their senses in order to guide their surgery.’