A new technology enables surgeons to practice delicate spinal procedures virtually, with less risk and improved patient outcomes.
Simulution, a provider of medical training solutions using virtual reality and other advanced technologies, announced the debut of a haptically-enabled orthopedic surgery simulator. This product uses haptic (touch-enabled) devices and software toolkit from SensAble Technologies, Inc. The system helps doctors train and develop expertise on a specific spinal implant technology in a realistic computer-based environment without exposing doctors to prolonged radiation (a downside to current cadaver-based training), and with zero risk to the patient.
With medical mandates for improved training processes, and skyrocketing malpractice insurance, Simulution’s haptically-enabled system typifies the upswing in the use of surgical simulation and training systems as a more efficient and beneficial way to teach high-risk skills than the standard methods involving cadavers or supervised performance on patients.
The surgery simulator is a way for surgeons to practice and be tested on precise spinal implant procedures that rely on spinal implant technology from Abbott Spine. Extreme skill is required to tighten the pedicle screw that is used in the process of fusing vertebrae (where the precise “feel” of the tightening can mean the difference between a successful surgery and permanent damage to the spinal cord). Traditional cadaver-based training forces surgeons to undergo long periods of exposure to radiation, as they learn to view the fluoroscopic image and determine the exact placement of the pedicle screw, sometimes with adverse consequences to the health of the surgeon.
Simulution developed the application using the Melerit TraumaVision platform, a medical virtual reality simulator designed for orthopedic surgeries using fluoroscopy. During surgery, pedals are used to activate radiation and a fluoroscopy image is presented on a screen in the same way as in real operations. Surgeons in training hold a SensAble PHANTOM haptic device in place of the instruments used in surgery, such as the canulation tool and screwdriver, used to tighten the pedicle screw. The PHANTOM literally pushes back on the surgeon’s hand, so they “feel” each step of a procedure, from palpating the bone while looking at an X-ray view, to twisting a needle into the bone, to inserting a guide wire into the needle, and then tightening the screw. After virtual surgery, the surgeon’s performance is tallied and scored, and their progress can be measured over time.
“Spinal surgeries are growing at a phenomenal rate as our population ages and new technologies improve results,” said Bruce D. Anderson, Ph.D., and principal at Simulution. “However, these are still high-risk surgeries and training continues to represent a major challenge for neuro- and orthopedic surgeons. With this new spinal implant procedure training system, surgeons can acquire these skills using virtual imagery and ‘artificial touch’ in a very realistic environment.”