VirtaMed pushes the boundaries of surgical simulation

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Before a pilot steps into the cockpit of an airplane, they must undergo intensive flight simulation training. After all, an active pilot has thousands of lives in their hands every day. Flight simulation helps them practice and prepare for difficult situations before they take off, so why not do this for surgeons? This question was what sparked Swiss company, VirtaMed to develop surgical simulators.

Virtual surgical simulation is still relatively new as a training tool for hospitals and surgical clinics, however, it is starting to become more and more popular. Previous methods of simulation involved rubber models, but no virtual visualization of a procedure or objective feedback could be provided, which are both extremely important for surgery training. In North America, The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) introduced a mandate in 2013 requiring surgical trainees to have simulation training as part of their surgical skills training. The VirtaMed ArthroS™ simulator provides a safe and risk-free environment for trainees to learn and practice on a variety of anatomies that include the hip, shoulder, and knee without compromising patient health. Whether trainees need 10 attempts or 100, the simulator is always available and a great alternative for OR practice or the use of cadavers.

Arthroscopy procedures, such as ACL reconstruction, require a lot of training and skill to perfect. With a simulator, trainees can learn how and where to place ACL grafts and also learn the consequences of mistakes. As Dr. Robert Pedowitz states, “The truth is that most of the technical skills of ACL reconstruction are currently learned on patients during clinical care delivery.” Using a simulator removes patient risk from the equation.

When using a VirtaMed ArthroS™ simulator, trainees are able to see a virtual inside and outside view of the knee (or other anatomical joint like hip and shoulder) as well as use real surgical tools on a real anatomical model. This allows for both tactile and visual feedback for different pathologies and anatomies. Trainees can explore the joints and learn anatomy without the worry of injuring a patient. Trainees can take fluoroscopic images without exposure to radiation, which assists them in practicing correct portal placement and access training to the joint.

The simulators are a great learning tool for any hospital or surgical training center. Training cases, expert approved and surgery specific, provide educational information and real-time feedback for trainees. Trainees can learn where to improve their surgical technique and see first-hand the consequences of surgical mistakes without the potential of harming a patient. Trainees are also able to practice on the simulators without the supervision of a senior surgeon. This frees up valuable time resources in any hospital and/or training facility.

VirtaMed has an interdisciplinary background between medicine and engineering. The company has over 150 simulators throughout North American hospitals, Institutions, and training facilities. Medical societies like the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) have been using VirtaMed simulators to improve standardized training for their surgical procedures. Similarly, medical device companies like Bayer and Smith and Nephew have been using VirtaMed simulators to promote and improve training on their devices.

Helping surgeons help their trainees and subsequently their patients is the most important goal for the team at VirtaMed™. The company prides itself on pushing the current boundaries of virtual simulation and is always looking at new ways to be more innovative. Rick Hoedt, VirtaMed’s Executive Vice President for North America, is excited about the level of demand for surgical simulation in the U.S.A. and Canada and is extremely proud to be part of a company on the forefront of surgical simulation. The company along with its arthroscopy simulators also specializes in pelvic simulators for women’s and men’s health. VirtaMed hopes that its simulators will become a part of everyday surgical training in the future.