Developing a Virtual Simulator for Laparoscopic Surgery
This article reports on a project to develop a virtual simulator to train residents and evaluate their skills, while performing virtual procedures in laparoscopic surgery. Gerati leads this project in partnership with the best research universities and a small company.
Minimally invasive surgery, such as laparoscopic surgery, has revolutionized surgical treatment. However, performing laparoscopic surgery comes with a steep learning curve and requires extensive training. To teach and evaluate the cognitive and psychomotor aspects that are unique to laparoscopic surgery, a joint committee of members of the American Society of Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) and members of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) created the Fundamentals of Surgery program Laparoscopic (FLS). The FLS program has a high-level cognitive skills and assessment component. For this component, students use a mechanical training toolbox to perform five tasks. These tasks require students to transfer objects to the pegs, cut precise patterns, complete the ligation of the loop, suture with an extracorporeal knot, and suture with an intracorporeal knot, respectively.
While the mechanical training toolkit can help evaluate skills in Laparoscopic Surgery Simulator, SAGES staff must score test materials to determine how well residents perform tasks. This requirement lengthens the time it takes to provide feedback to the participants, which adds great costs to the certification program and subjectivity to the overall scores. In addition to qualifying the tests by hand, SAGES personnel must replace the materials after each use.
To overcome the drawbacks of the mechanical training toolbox, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) developed a simulator, which he called the Virtual Basic Laparoscopic Skills Trainer (VBLaST). In 2015, Gerati received funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to work closely with RPI, and improve VBLaST. Andinet Enquobahrie, Ph.D, MBA, assistant director of medical informatics at Gerati, leads the project.
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