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'Flight Simulator' for Surgeons: Project Joins Computer Science With Medicine

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A plastic surgery resident takes a first look at the surgical simulator.

University of Wisconsin-Madison investigators are working on the development of a surgical simulator as a teaching tool.

Credit: Sarah Morton

University of Wisconsin-Madison investigators are developing a simulator to help medical students virtually practice surgical procedures.

Professor Eftychios Sifakis is collaborating with professor Timothy King, as well as with Dr. Court Cutting, an international expert in cleft lip and palate procedures, and computer sciences graduate student Nathan Mitchell.

In early November, the team used the tool to demonstrate how to make and close incisions on flat areas of skin, make scalp incisions, and suture them using flap techniques.

The simulator emphasizes biomechanical accuracy. Surgeons must predict how soft tissue will respond to a procedure based on factors such as age, type of tissue, and its location on the body. The simulator's three-dimensional renderings eventually will demonstrate how real skin will react under actual conditions, which will require further development as well as the acquisition of more information about live tissues. Sifakis says the end goal is to create an agile, portable system for use on tablets or other mobile devices.

The U.S. National Science Foundation is funding the team's efforts through its three-year Smart and Connected Health grant awarded in July 2014. The researchers say the simulator has significant potential to curb errors and post-surgical complications.

From University of Wisconsin-Madison News
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