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 Designing touch-sensitive virtual reality tools to train and test tomorrow's surgeons

This story is from the category Sensors
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Date posted: 18/07/2010

Minimally invasive surgery is increasingly common and effective for operating inside the human abdomen. In these laparoscopic procedures, which use slender, handheld tools inserted into the body of the patient, the skill of the surgeon is the most important factor determining the success of the operation. A team of interdisciplinary researchers led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has won a $2.3 million federal grant to develop a touch-sensitive virtual reality simulator that will standardize how surgeons are trained and certified to perform laparoscopic procedures.

As surgeons perform most of the procedure with remote control tools that can be inserted into the body using only small incisions, laparoscopic surgery foregoes the need for large incisions and, in turn, usually results in shorter recovery times for patients. The skills needed to perform most minimally invasive laparoscopic operations - including, for example, gallbladder removal and gastric band surgery - can be reduced to a handful of basic tasks: cutting in very specific patterns, tying knots, stitching, and manipulating very small items. Studies show that being proficient at these tasks is critical for performing laparoscopic surgery.

The new four-year grant, awarded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health, tasks Rensselaer Professor Suvranu De and his team of researchers with developing new hardware and software that effectively trains surgeons to perform these fundamental tasks, as well as objectively assesses the performance of physicians who are seeking to become certified in laparoscopic surgery. This new testing and training system will employ haptic technology, or touch feedback, which realistically replicates the sensation a surgeon would feel in his or her hands during an actual procedure. De, an expert in multiscale computer modeling and haptics, is joined by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Tufts University.

"We want to give surgeons the best tools possible, so they can better hone their skills and successfully treat their patients," said project leader De, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer. "Just as training on virtual reality simulators has shown to be highly effective for jet pilots, we know that physicians show increased success in surgery the more times they perform it. We're creating new tools that make it easier than ever for them to practice. These same tools will also be used in certification tests to make sure surgeons have all the required skills mastered before they start operating on patients."

See the full Story via external site: www.physorg.com



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