The latest advances in VR technology incorporate haptic technology for a full immersive experience, offering the ability for trainees to safely improve their surgical skills.
VR offers medical professionals the opportunity to rehearse and tailor new skills and knowledge in an extremely realistic environment without the associated risks. As early as 2002, a study by Seymour et al, investigated whether virtual reality could improve operating theatre performance. The study found that gallbladder dissection was 29% faster for VR-trained residents; non-VRtrained residents were nine times more likely to transiently fail to make progress and five times more likely to injure the gallbladder or burn nontarget tissue. Errors were six times less likely to occur in the VR-trained group.1
Since this study, the technology has come a long way. Haptic technology has advanced at pace making the VR experience even more realistic for trainees today. Dr. Claudette Lajam, chief safety officer and adult reconstructive surgeon at NYU Langone Orthopaedics, explains that, in surgery, touch is crucial to the surgeon’s ability to learn and carry out tasks. Surgery is a multi-sensory skill, where successful outcomes rely on the ability of the surgeon to experience and process somatosensory feedback. What the surgeon sees interfaces with tactile and proprioceptive feedback to allow them to perform and adjust movement during surgery.
“In many instances, haptic feedback guides the surgeon’s actions during a procedure. For example, during a total knee replacement, the surgical saw is used to resect bone. Haptic feedback allows the surgeon to feel changes in resistance between the layers of harder and softer bone, and to feel when they have gone through the bone, so they can prevent injury to nerves, vessels, and soft tissue behind this layer. These layers of bone cannot be seen – they must be felt,” comments Dr. Lajam.
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