Virtual reality is used to train surgeons – both locally and remotely and has won many plaudits for doing so. It is used as a teaching aid for medical students, for example, anatomy lessons, but surgery is the primary use.
It enables trainee surgeons to learn new skills as well as practice existing ones on a ‘virtual patient’ which removes the risks of mistakes and helps to build confidence.
The surgeon wears virtual reality glasses and a data glove and uses these to help them perform a surgical procedure via manipulation in a three dimensional space. This is an ideal setting for them to learn new techniques and to assess the results.
Plus it is useful for surgeons who wish to improve their current skill set or to refresh old skills. All of which is done in a safe and predictable environment.
The idea is that trainee surgeons acquire skills and experience in a virtual setting before applying them to real world patients where the risks are so much higher.
Training can take the form of virtual reality headset and data glove, robotic surgery or simulation software such as ‘HumanSim’
Surgeons are able to ‘feel’ what is happening during surgery by means of force feedback which is a haptic response. Haptics is the study of touch and what this system does is to replicate the action of real surgical instruments, for example a scalpel.
The surgeon is able to feel the virtual scalpel cutting through tissue and muscle in the same way they would in a real life operation. This enables them to make adjustments as and where necessary in order to learn the correct technique. The feedback differs according to what part of the body is being operated on, the instrument and the procedure.