Boston's Childrens and TV special effects team create super-realistic surgical trainers

Television special effects may be cool, but you wouldn't call them lifesaving--until now.

The special effects company Fractured FX, which won an Emmy this fall for "American Horror Story: Freak Show," has partnered with Boston Children's Hospital's simulator program, SIMPeds, to create what the hospital calls "ultra-realistic" anatomic models for use in medical and surgical training.

The partnership has created two models so far, one to train surgeons to put children on a heart-lung bypass, and the other to teach neurosurgeons to use an endoscope to remove tumors and bypass blockages in the brain, the hospital announced.

"This is the nexus of medicine and art, surgery and cinema," SIMPeds Director Peter Weinstock, M.D., said in the announcement.

The models include realistic skin with subcutaneous fat and muscles, thin blood vessels covered with a membrane, gel that feels like brain tissue and a realistic basilar artery that students must avoid in neurosurgery training.

"To make simulations effective, you want to promote suspension of disbelief, to create an environment where everyone is believing that they're working on a real child," Weinstock said.

Boston Children's plans to go into the business of selling the realistic training models, with Fractured X as the manufacturer, according to the announcement.

Surgical residents also can benefit from simulation training that includes competition and prizes, according to a 2014 study conducted at Boston University and Brigham and Women's Hospital. After announcing a "tournament" with prizes including an iPad, the number of residents willing to practice their skills on a da Vinci robotic skills simulator went from three to 21, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Meanwhile, educators at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston are incorporating coaching techniques like those used in athletics and by musical conductors into medical training. The training model is built on a framework that emphasizes practice, setting a well-defined goal, motivating surgical students to improve and providing structured feedback focused on improvement.

To learn more:
- read the announcement