Microsurgical Simulator: Training for Budding Surgeons
29 July 2010
Photo: Lehrstuhl für Informatik V
Funding for the development of a computer-based training environment for microsurgical interventions has been awarded to a cooperative venture between scientists at Heidelberg University and VRmagic GmbH (Mannheim) by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. A team at the Institute of Computer Engineering headed by Prof. Dr. Reinhard Männer and the VRmagic company, originally an offshoot enterprise of the University, can look forward to financial support totalling 315,000 euros. Virtual reality technology will be used to generate three-dimensional scenarios in which novice surgeons can perform realistic operations and hone their microsurgical skills. Funding is being provided through the end of October 2011.
The microsurgical simulator is designed to supplement existing training methods for medical courses. It will provide systematic training for hand-eye coordination in the use of surgical instruments under the microscope. In addition, students can practise linking up two vessels at the submillimetre level and dissection of a vessel tree. “The use of simulators is gaining increasing significance in medical training, notably in connection with minimally invasive and microsurgical operating techniques,” says Prof. Männer. “The advantages of computer-based training are constant availability without medical risks, low costs and, not least, the ability to objectively measure and evaluate the students’ surgical performance.”
Prof. Männer’s team and the VRmagic company are working on a high-precision optical system that tracks the movements of the instruments and passes on their position to the computer. High-performance simulation algorithms are being developed that calculate the resulting tissue behaviour with a time delay below the threshold of human perception. Microsurgical skills such as these are required above all in plastic surgery, neuro- and bypass surgery, gynaecology, urology, ENT surgery and maxillary surgery.
The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology is funding the project in the framework of a programme known as Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand (ZIM). The aim of the programme is to encourage cooperation between research institutions and small or medium-sized companies to speed up the transformation of research outcomes into marketable innovations and promote the innovative power and competitiveness of the firms involved. Prof. Männer’s Chair of Computer Science V at the Institute of Computer Engineering and VRmagic GmbH have cooperated successfully in the past. The company was founded in 2001 as an offshoot of the Chair.
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Prof. Dr. Reinhard Männer
Institute of Computer Engineering
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