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Designing touch-sensitive virtual reality tools to train and test tomorrow's surgeons
Date:7/15/2010

Troy, N.Y. Minimally invasive surgery is increasingly common and effective for operating inside the human abdomen. In these laparoscopic procedures, which use slender, handheld tools inserted into the body of the patient, the skill of the surgeon is the most important factor determining the success of the operation. A team of interdisciplinary researchers led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has won a $2.3 million federal grant to develop a touch-sensitive virtual reality simulator that will standardize how surgeons are trained and certified to perform laparoscopic procedures.

As surgeons perform most of the procedure with remote control tools that can be inserted into the body using only small incisions, laparoscopic surgery foregoes the need for large incisions and, in turn, usually results in shorter recovery times for patients. The skills needed to perform most minimally invasive laparoscopic operations including, for example, gallbladder removal and gastric band surgery can be reduced to a handful of basic tasks: cutting in very specific patterns, tying knots, stitching, and manipulating very small items. Studies show that being proficient at these tasks is critical for performing laparoscopic surgery.

The new four-year grant, awarded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health, tasks Rensselaer Professor Suvranu De and his team of researchers with developing new hardware and software that effectively trains surgeons to perform these fundamental tasks, as well as objectively assesses the performance of physicians who are seeking to become certified in laparoscopic surgery. This new testing and training system will employ haptic technology, or touch feedback, which realistically replicates the sensation a surgeon would feel in his or her hands during an actual procedure. De, an expert in multiscale computer modeling and haptics, is joined by researchers at Beth Israel Deac
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Contact: Michael Mullaney
mullam@rpi.edu
518-276-6161
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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