Technically gifted clinician at Leeds General Infirmary contributes to ventricular catheterisation simulator

Manchester 20 November 2001Recently, Virtual Medical Worlds Magazine had a talk with Dr. Jan Lalik, who is a clinical research fellow in the Neurosurgical Department at the University of Leeds. Both as clinical and technical contributor, Dr. Lalik is participating in the WebSET project which was launched in May 2000 to design among other computer-based medical tools a set of simulators to train clinical procedures such as lumbar punction and ventricular catheterisation. When the project will be finished in May 2002, junior surgeons and medical students will be able to use the simulators over the Web.

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Dr. Lalik has routine communications per e-mail nearly every day for the WebSET project with the other partners. During the last two months, he has been co-developing the new simulator prototypes which involved intensive testing and giving regular feedback to the people at the Manchester Visualization Centre who are co-ordinating the project. Together with the Manchester partners, Dr. Lalik has been discussing special steps to be taken for future advancement. He also made some plans for additional anatomical features to be integrated in the virtual head of the last prototype for ventricular catheterisation. The result looks much better now and the model has become more perfect.

As a clinician, Dr. Lalik has to stay up to date with his knowledge on computers and therefore is obliged to follow the latest worldwide software developments. This is rather exceptional for a clinician who normally does not care about such things. Dr. Lalik is now preparing for the assessment phase in WebSET and works on his own concept by collecting data and putting them on-line. He is spending quite a lot of time finding out which possibilities he has in the clinic, and talking to different people at different levels at Leeds General Infirmary. Dr. Lalik also has to install statistical programmes.

In the near future, Dr. Lalik is planning to make a videoclip of the ventricular catheterisation procedure in the operating theatre using sophisticated equipment which has just arrived at the hospital. First, he will have to learn how to use it, since it is not a natural thing for a clinician to work with a digital video camera. Not only the recording demands some effort but also computer-based video editing is difficult and takes time to learn as well. Next to this, Dr. Lalik is still working on contributing to the tutorial and helpline for the simulation of the ventricular catheterisation procedure. Constant rewriting is necessary because you cannot simply take things over from a book.

Dr. Lalik is the only one of the clinical end-users in the WebSET project with a comprehensive technical knowledge enabling him to enter into discussion with the technicians. On the other hand, he often is to be found in the operating theatre where he performs ventricular catheterisation procedures on a routine basis even a couple of times in the same day sometimes. As such, Dr. Lalik is fully aware of the fact that a surgical simulator is of the greatest importance, not perhaps for the experienced senior consultant but specifically for the junior staff who has to have the possibility to train the procedure. The typically neurosurgical ventricular catheterisation should become a routine procedure for surgeons, just as the lumbar punction has to become a common procedure for each clinician.

In the future, after the project will be finished and the final product will be ready, junior staff will have the opportunity to use the simulators for training on a regular basis. Dr. Lalik is convinced that the right range of people will use it instead of learning from a book or just watching the senior surgeons in the operating theatre. Books have always been there. Watching in the operating theatre is not always possible because often, there is no access for trainees at busy hours, which condemns them to assist only early in the morning or late in the evening.

The current European standard requests that there should be access to at least one computer in each hospital department for junior staff. Leeds has a seminar room with PC access, allowing clinicians to train procedures with use of haptic feedback. Dr. Lalik is already teaching here every week but expects a lot more from the WebSET simulators, once they are available. More details on WebSET are available in this VMW issue's article Computer-based courseware familiarises medical students in Athens with laparoscopic procedures and at the WebSET project Web site.


Leslie Versweyveld

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