Thursday, November 25, 2004

Saturday Morning Medicine Blogging

From the University of Michigan Health System press release site:

‘Virtual surgery’ simulations help train tomorrow’s surgeons
November 23, 2004

ANN ARBOR, MI  -The rigors of medical school teach the information required to become a physician, but when it comes to surgery, the greatest teacher is experience. Traditional training is done through a type of immersive apprenticeship, with experienced surgeons teaching residents in the operating room over a period of years.

At the University of Michigan Medical School, 21st century educational technology has caught  up with 21st century medicine with the development of the Clinical Simulation Center. Here, doctors-in-training can practice their skills on extremely realistic procedural simulators, including those designed  for developing surgical skills. These sophisticated simulators mimic the look – and even the feel – of performing an actual surgical procedure, allowing surgical trainees to practice techniques before they ever reach the operating room. [...]
The actual press release (link above) includes a link for a video of the process.

Finally, technology leads to a real advance in medical teaching.  I suspect that the patients will appreciate this, too, even if they never know it.  One problem in surgical training, in any large medical center, is that junior trainees don't get very much hands-on time in the O.R.   The senior residents and fellows get to do the most interesting stuff; first- and second-year residents do most of the mundane stuff, and medical students -- if they are "lucky" -- might get to do some suturing at the end. 

The idea of using computers to simulate surgery is not a new one.  However, it is only recently that it has become feasible to get really high-resolution graphics that run fast enough for this kind of simulation (at a reasonable cost).  That, and the development of tactile feedback, were necessary for this technology to be really useful. 

Now, if we could just develop something similar for psychiatry...