Simulator Uses Real Patient Data, Allows for Pre-Surgery ‘Rehearsal’

November 13, 2007

Surgeons in the Division of Vascular Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center believe they are the first in the country to use a simulator program prior to surgery, to allow a physician to “rehearse” the entire procedure before the doctor and patient ever set foot in the operating room.

URMC is the first to repurpose this technology to directly impact patient care for carotid stenting cases. The primary function of the simulator technology is to teach young medical students through the use of fictional patient cases pre-loaded into a computer program.

Vascular surgeons capture the patient’s own data using a 64-slice CT angiography scanner and transfer it to the simulator, which then allows the surgeon to “operate” on the patient prior to surgery. The experience mirrors the real surgery, with a flat screen displaying the patient’s anatomy and a catheter that interacts with the computer as the surgeon manipulates it.

Problems that may arise during surgery are discovered in a safe environment and can be planned for or avoided. Choices about various catheters and other instruments can be made ahead of time, possibly saving time in the OR and saving money as a result of pre-selecting the most beneficial tools for the particular case.

“For years we have trained for procedures in a general sense using simulation technology,” said Karl A. Illig, M.D., chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “We now are taking the process a step further, using the very latest in simulation programs and combining that with a patient’s own medical information. What we get is the truest picture of what their surgery will be like before we ever begin.”

Illig and his team – vascular surgeons Michael Singh, M.D., Jeffrey M. Rhodes, M.D., and Joseph P. Hart, M.D., surgical resident Sean Hislop M.D., and surgical fellow Joseph Hedrick, M.D. – are working with simulator company Simbionix to develop a study that considers the impact of the simulator technology on patient care.

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