Doctors’ training via virtual surgery wins research grant

Virtual experiments could soon be helping new surgeons hone their skills before they start work with live patients. 

This is the research objective of European Research Council (ERC) fellow Stéphane Bordas, a Professor of Computational Mechanics at the University of Luxembourg.

Stéphane Bordas, along with collaborators at Cardiff University, has been awarded a €1.3m Starting Grant from the ERC in 2012 for his RealTcut (reality cut) project.

Bordas’ long-term aim is to develop real-time simulators that will help train surgeons, assist them during operations and contribute to enhancing surgical planning.

By constructing virtual in silico replicas of the patients, such tools have the potential to reduce errors and post-operative complications and could eventually lead to robot-assisted and robot-led surgery.

The projectwas born from the realisation of similarities between the structure of soft human tissue and that of advanced engineering materials such as those developed for the aerospace industry.

‘The ultimate goal is to be able to simulate surgical cutting for the first time in quasi real time, thereby allowing trainee surgeons to hone their skills in a virtual environment before beginning work with live patients,’ Bordas said in a statement.

The main challenge of the research is to enable realistic and real-time simulation of phenomena such as cutting in soft tissue, which are still said to be poorly understood.

Bordas is hopeful that this research project, which runs until 2017, and has already led to the first real-time error controlled simulator of cutting in soft tissue, will bring substantial fundamental advances as well as medical and industrial benefits.