Trainee surgeons set to hone skills with augmented reality

Augmented reality software is set to help train surgeons on hyper-real 3D-printed models of human organs.

Trainee surgeons
Image: Organlike

The software will guide trainee surgeons as they perform simulated surgery on lifelike models and will be used in the UK and less developed areas of the world.

Project partners are working with the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) to deliver the immersive technology, which will remove barriers to training by allowing surgeons to practice lifesaving skills at home.

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The consortium includes industry-lead Organlike, which has produced the models of organs, along with NHS Highland, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Vivolution, KWWK Ltd, 4c Engineering and Aseptium.

“Our software works along with Organlike’s hyper-real models to provide guidance and training, as well as feedback on performance. While there is no replacement for the real thing, we can help prepare trainees for taking the next step in their training,” said Danny McMahon, digital and metrology lead at the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland. “Although coronavirus restrictions are lifting, we expect there to be an increasing demand for a more flexible approach to surgical training going forward.”

McMahon added: “The application for this technology extends far beyond Scotland and although it’s still relatively early days for the project we are already excited about its potential.”

Backed by funding from the Innovate UK Sustainable Innovation Fund, they have distributed 160 kits to the UK and Africa

Accessible via a smartphone app, augmented reality technology is used to scan physical models of organs made from hyper-realistic aqua gel, designed to mimic the texture of human tissue. This scan generates a digital representation of the organ, which is displayed on the trainee’s phone and provides instructions that feedback when a procedure is successfully completed. Trainees can also film their work for review from experienced surgical trainers.

As well as helping train surgeons in the UK, the technology can help medical professionals in less developed areas of the world where training facilities are scarce or non-existent. Kits have already been delivered to three countries in Africa, with discussions ongoing for other territories globally.

“Augmented reality is the perfect complementary technology to accompany our models and this partnership is really exciting,” said Professor Will Shu, founder and director of Organlike. “With in person learning limited by restrictions on access to facilities and resources, this technology could help trainee surgeons who can’t currently access facilities to work in their own space. Our hope is that our product will form an important part of future training programmes across the world.”