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Virtual reality system for training practice of ear surgery

26 July, 2006

The CSIRO ICT Centre, Medic Vision Pty Ltd and the University of Melbourne have signed an agreement for the commercial development of a virtual reality (VR) system for teaching temporal bone surgery.

The system, developed by CSIRO and the University of Melbourne’s Department of Otolaryngology, will enable Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeons to undertake initial training for major ear surgery in a VR environment rather then using temporal bone samples from cadavers.

Students will now be able to train for procedures, such as the insertion of assisted hearing devices like the cochlear implant, in an immersive 3D simulation that allows an instructor to work with a student even if they are in different locations.

The training environment incorporates a realistic sense of touch, via force feedback devices, as well as 3D visualisation to provide a close match to the surgical situation.

Dr Matthew Hutchins, a virtual environments scientist with the CSIRO ICT Centre, says the goal was to create an environment where an experienced surgeon can guide a novice through the procedure.

“By clearly showing the intricate anatomy of the ear and allowing students to drill away the bone over and over again, under direct supervision, the system provides an amazing teaching and learning experience,” says Dr Hutchins.

Ross Horley, managing director of Medic Vision, says that the project further represents Medic Vision’s commitment to develop simulators as an effective alternate to practicing surgical procedures on patients.

“The aim of Medic Vision is to use simulation technology to help make doctors become better doctors, which is directly benefiting to the patients,” says Horley.

University of Melbourne deputy vice-chancellor (Innovation and Development) Professor Vijoleta Braach-Maksvytis said that this world first simulator provides an innovative continuum with the University’s earlier invention, the Bionic ear.

“This provides an enhanced level of sophistication and access for surgical training. Feeling is believing - the realism the technology conveys is remarkable," Professor Braach-Maksvytis says.

The new temporal bone simulator will allow trainees to learn temporal bone procedures supported by curriculum integrated into the simulator, textbook learning, clinical expertise and experiencing real life surgical scenarios. Trainees will have access to further educational material while carrying out a simulated procedure making the simulator an invaluable tool for developing technical and cognitive skills.

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