Simulution relies on SensAble Technologies' haptic devices to create touch-enabled orthopaedic surgery simulator

Burnsville 15 October 2008Simulution, a provider of medical training solutions using virtual reality and other advanced technologies, has launched the debut of a haptically-enabled orthopaedic surgery simulator that uses haptic - touch-enabled - devices and a software toolkit from SensAble Technologies Inc. The system helps doctors train and develop expertise on a specific spinal implant technology in a realistic computer-based environment without exposing doctors to prolonged radiation - a downside to current cadaver-based training - and with zero risk to the patient. The companies made the announcement at the 23rd annual meeting of the North American Spine Society (NASS) in Toronto.


With medical mandates for improved training processes, and skyrocketing malpractice insurance, Simulution's haptically-enabled system typifies the upswing in the use of surgical simulation and training systems as a better way to teach high-risk skills than via cadavers or supervised performance on patients.

The surgery simulator is a way for surgeons to practise and be tested on precise spinal implant procedures that rely on spinal implant technology from Abbott Spine. Extreme skill is required to tighten the pedicle screw that is used in the process of fusing vertebrae - where the precise "feel" of the tightening can mean the difference between a successful surgery - or permanent damage to the spinal cord.

Traditional cadaver-based training approaches forced surgeons to undergo long periods of exposure to radiation, as they learned to view the fluoroscopic image and determine the exact placement of the pedicle screw - sometimes with adverse consequences to the health of the surgeon.

"Spinal surgeries are growing at a phenomenal rate as our population ages and new technologies improve results", stated Bruce D. Anderson, Ph.D., and principal at Simulution. "However, these are still high-risk surgeries and training continues to represent a major challenge for neuro- and orthopaedic surgeons. With this new spinal implant procedure training system, surgeons can acquire these skills using virtual imagery and 'artificial touch' in a very realistic environment."

Simulution developed the application using the Melerit TraumaVision platform, a medical virtual reality simulator designed for orthopaedic surgeries using fluoroscopy. During surgery, pedals are used to activate radiation and a fluoroscopy image is presented on a screen in the same way as in real operations. Surgeons in training hold a SensAble PHANTOM haptic device in place of the instruments used in surgery, such as the canulation tool and screwdriver, used to tighten the pedicle screw.

The PHANTOM literally pushes back on the surgeon's hand, so they "feel" each step of a procedure, from palpating the bone while looking at an X-ray view, to twisting a needle into the bone, to inserting a guide wire into the needle, and then the tightening of the screw. After virtual surgery, the surgeon's performance is tallied and scored, and their progress can be measured over time.

Simulution is focused on delivering a broad range of medical simulation technologies. Products include medical models, analogues and simulators, sourced via worldwide distribution alliances. Simulution also manages blank-sheet development of custom-tailored training solutions, applying the latest development and production techniques to improve quality and reduce part cost. In addition, Simulution provides complete medical education services from curricula development to skills validation. More company news is available in the VMW October 2006 article Simulution installs cataract surgery simulator at Ohio State.

Founded in 1993, SensAble Technologies is a developer of 3D touch-enabled - force feedback - solutions and technology that allow users to not only see and hear an on-screen computer application, but to actually "feel" it. With 32 patents granted and over 6000 systems installed worldwide, SensAble Technologies' haptic technology is being used in applications ranging from designing toys and footwear, to surgical simulation and stroke rehabilitation, to dental restorations, as well as a range of research and robotic applications.

The company markets its own 3D modelling solutions as well as its haptic devices and developer toolkits to medical, dental, design, and manufacturing companies; educational and research institutions; and OEMs. SensAble products are available through direct and reseller channels worldwide. More news about SensAble Technologies can be found in the VMW September 2008 article SensAble customer, Ohio Supercomputer Center, wins national award for haptically-enabled surgical simulation teaching tool.

Leslie Versweyveld

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