ecancermedicalscience

Research

Creating a low-cost virtual reality surgical simulation to increase surgical oncology capacity and capability

19 Mar 2019
Groesbeck Parham, Eric G Bing, Anthony Cuevas, Boris Fisher, Jonathan Skinner, Mulindi Mwanahamuntu, Richard Sullivan

Worldwide, more than 80% of people with cancer will require surgery during their disease course, but less than 25% have access to safe, affordable and timely surgery. Among the barriers to increasing surgical capacity are the time and costs required to train novices. Virtual reality (VR) surgical simulations can reduce the time required for novices to reach surgical proficiency, though their costs may exceed USD $100,000. The goal of this study was to determine if a low-cost system, using commercially available technology designed for in-home computer gaming, could be used to create a realistic VR surgical oncology simulation. Standard commercially available VR software and Oculus Rift hardware have been used to provide high-quality visuals and believable surgeon hand interactions. Near identical VR reproduction of an operating room using 1:1 scale matching of real-world elements, including equipment, instruments, supplies and sounds, maintaining frame rate greater than 60 fps to maintain visual fidelity has been created. Internal anatomy was designed as VR replica of human female pelvic anatomy, including organs, veins and other vessels, peritoneum and connective tissue. Internal anatomy was designed to run at 120 fps and to allow for a realistic abdominal radical hysterectomy simulation. Surgical hands were modelled to scale for those with large and small hands. Multiple hand positions were simulated using Oculus touch hardware. Reconstructing the virtual environment to simulate reality as accurately as possible was done to immerse users in the simulator so that they focus on learning and practise without distractions. Training modules were co-designed by experts in learning sciences, human behaviour, VR and gynaecologic oncology. We have successfully created a low-cost VR simulation to help prepare novice surgeons to perform a radical abdominal hysterectomy surgery procedure. The simulation can be used with commercially available computer gaming hardware that currently costs less than USD $1,500. Low-cost VR simulation has the potential to reduce the time and cost to train surgeons to perform surgical oncology procedures, as well as both improve and audit quality. If effective in real-world clinical trials, such simulations have relevance to multiple surgical procedures and applicability in both resource-limited and high-income settings.

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