Video games train medical students

Diverging from entertainment purposes, video game developers are applying virtual reality technology to medical training, reports the Washington Post. These "serious games" allow medical students to practice difficult procedures before performing them on actual patients.

The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore has embraced gaming technology, using software called iMedic to create a 3-D X-ray that enables doctors and med students to examine the human body from all angles.

The University also operates the Maryland Advanced Simulation, Training, Research and Innovation (MASTRI) Center, where students use motion-capture technology and motion sensors to analyze the movements of experienced surgeons. Gyusung Lee, assistant professor of surgery, hopes that by studying the postures and actions used by expert surgeons, med students can develop better habits and stronger skills, notes the Post.

Although medical simulators allow residents to poke and cut as if in an actual surgery, the gaming technology still lacks the high-quality precision needed to replicate what doctors actually experience.

"The most complex human-made machine, such as a space shuttle and the simulator that comes with it, is ultimately less complex to model than a single organ, like a pancreas," Adrian E. Park, head of general surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center, told the Post. "We are in the earliest days of trying to simulate all the possible biological possibilities in one single organ."

So as virtual reality technology slowly makes inroads into the medical field, surgical simulation training remains confined to just a few specific tasks, like gall bladder removal, notes the Post. "We can do things to simulate fairly basic steps. But if you want the full reaction of a pancreas or liver as it functions in health and disease, boy, we are just a long, long way from that," Park said.

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