Virtual reality room simulates surgery

Engineering researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY, USA) are making progress on their development of a virtual reality operating room that will allow surgeons to experience the stresses of the operating room before they perform a procedure on a live patient.

Engineering researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY, USA) are making progress on their development of a virtual reality operating room that will allow surgeons to experience the stresses of the operating room before they perform a procedure on a live patient.

Previously, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $2.7 million grant to Rensselaer Professor Suvranu De to create, test, and validate the surgical simulator, which will seek to replicate as closely as possible the environment of an operating room.

The system will feature touch-sensitive surgical instruments enabling users to touch, feel, and manipulate virtual tissues and organs through surgical tool handles used in actual surgery. The system will also include an immersive 3-D headset with realistic graphics, and a "virtual mentor" who offers tips, criticisms, visual and auditory cues, and other feedback to help guide the surgeon’s actions and decisions.

Initially, De and his team will create a virtual operating room to simulate an emerging minimally invasive surgical technique known as single-incision laparoscopic surgery for procedures such as gallbladder removal and gastric banding.

Rensselaer will partner with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Tufts University in Boston on the project. Once perfected, the simulator should be expandable to other types of surgical procedures.

-- By Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design

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