Virtual training could improve surgeons’ operating skills
LUXEMBOURG: Virtual experiments could soon be helping new surgeons hone their skills before they start working with live patients. This is the objective of European Research Council (ERC) fellow Stéphane Bordas, Professor of Computational Mechanics at the University of Luxembourg. Bordas’ long-term aim is to develop real-time simulators, akin to flight simulators, which will help train surgeons, assist them during operations and contribute to enhancing surgical planning.
By constructing virtual, in silico replicas of the patients, such tools have the potential to reduce errors and post-operative complications, and could eventually lead to robot-assisted and robot-led surgery.
The project is titled “RealTcut” (reality cut) and was born from the realisation of similarities between the structure of soft human tissue and that of advanced engineering materials, such as those developed for the aerospace industry. “The ultimate goal is to be able to simulate surgical cutting for the first time in quasi real time, thereby allowing trainee surgeons to hone their skills in a virtual environment before beginning work with live patients,” explained Bordas.
The main challenge of the research is to enable both realistic and real-time simulation of phenomena, such as cutting into soft tissue, that are still poorly understood. Bordas is hopeful that this research project, which runs until 2017 and has already led to the first real-time error-controlled simulator for cutting into soft tissue, will result in substantial fundamental advances, as well as medical and industrial benefits.
Bordas, along with collaborators at Cardiff University in the UK, was awarded a prestigious €1.3 million starting grant from the ERC in 2012 for this project. He is now continuing his research at the University of Luxembourg. ERC Starting Grants are awarded by the European Commission to support promising researchers with the proven potential of becoming independent research leaders.