A group of Canadian scientists have developed a virtual reality simulator that uses 3-D image reconstructions and tactile feedback to help neurosurgery trainees practice brain surgery.
According to a study published last month in the journal Neurosurgery, the prototype system, called "NeuroTouch," was designed by a group of 50 experts from the National Research Council Canada, in collaboration with surgeons from more than 20 teaching hospitals across Canada.
The NeuroTouch software uses 3-D software to reproduce what a surgeon would see through an operating microscope, including brain tissue, blood tissue and tumors. The prototype system also provides for tactile feedback so that the students can experience what a procedure would feel like during actual surgery.
"Brain and tumor tissues in NeuroTouch look and feel like real tissues; they pulsate, they bleed if cut, they can be cauterized with a bipolar [cautery tool] or removed with an ultrasonic aspirator," Sébastien Delorme of the National Research Council Canada, told AuntMinnie.com. "NeuroTouch trainees can feel the stiffness of the tissues they touch through real neurosurgical tools mounted on force-feedback handles."
As described in Neurosurgery, researchers designed two training tasks to simulate common neurosurgery procedures based on MRI scans from patients with brain tumors. In the first task, the object was to remove a tumor using the regular surgical aspirator and ultrasonic aspirator without removing normal tissue. The objective of the second task was to remove a vascularized tumor with an aspirator while controlling blood loss.
The researchers said that reports from the teaching hospitals included high praise for the 3-D graphics, although there was some criticism of the tactile feedback system. According to an announcement, NeuroTouch prototypes now are being used in seven teaching hospitals in Canada for beta testing and validation, and to evaluate the system for integration into neurosurgery training curricula.