Each year more than 229.000 hysteroscopies are performed on women in the United States. Currently, hysteroscopy is learned on patients or inanimate objects such as bell peppers or sheep bladders. Using inanimate objects prevents trainees from feeling realistic sensations when they manipulate the tools, and does not allow objective feedback on their performance.
"In hysteroscopy procedures where the surgeon's ability to see the operating field and manipulate tissues is greatly limited, the sense of touch is essential for doing effective but safe surgery, and it is also essential in producing realistic surgical simulations", stated Wm. LeRoy Heinrichs, MD, Ph.D., professor and former chair of the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at Stanford Medical Center.
"Applying Immersion's haptic technology to the creation of simulators for training and practising hysteroscopy and other gynaecological procedures will improve training and reduce the risks to real patients. More and more gynaecologists will be able to learn and practise hysteroscopic surgery, providing this alternative to hysterectomy for many women."
Immersion completed the first phase of development of the hysteroscopy simulator with the help of Stanford University/NASA's National Biocomputation Center and Dr. Heinrichs, who works at Stanford University Medical Media and Information Technologies centre (SUMMIT). Future advances will focus on three software modules offering diagnostic and operative training. The first module will introduce the user to the basic hysteroscope handling, navigational, and exploratory skills prerequisite for performance of more involved therapeutic procedures.
The second and third modules will train surgeons in more advanced operative procedures such as polyp resection, endometrial ablation and myomectomy. The operative modules will provide the user with an opportunity to develop effective tool-handling skills and to further develop skills acquired in the introductory module.
All three modules will contain anatomical variations and simulated complications that the user must manage. Each module will be supported by a variety of text and graphical didactic content, supplementing the user's practical experience. The modules will collect detailed performance data to provide the trainee with feedback on his or her technique, skill level, and learning progress.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is part of the National Institutes of Health, the biomedical research arm of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The mission of the NICHD is to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from the reproductive process, and that all children have the chance to fulfil their potential for a healthy and productive life, free of disease or disability.
"Technology has already and will continue to revolutionise the practice of medicine", stated Dr. Joseph Tasto, medical director of Immersion Medical. "Medical simulators that can provide a realistic learning experience are the next logical step in training physicians. In the near future, I believe all medical trainees will be required to use simulators to learn new procedures before being allowed near a patient."
More news on Immersion Medical is available in the VMW May 2002 article Immersion integrates Surgical Science's LapSim 1.5 software with Virtual Laparoscopic Simulator.