Ear surgery, virtually

The CSIRO ICT Centre, Medic Vision and the University of Melbourne are developing a virtual reality system to allow medical students to train in temporal bone surgery.


The CSIRO ICT Centre, Medic Vision and the University of Melbourne are developing a virtual reality (VR) system to allow medical students to train in temporal bone surgery.



The system was developed by CSIRO and the University of Melbourne’s Department of Otolaryngology. It will enable Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeons to undertake initial training for major ear surgery in a VR environment rather then using temporal bone samples from cadavers.



Students will now be able to train for procedures, such as the insertion of assisted hearing devices like the cochlear implant, in an immersive 3D simulation. It allows an instructor to work with a student even if they are in different locations.



The training environment incorporates a realistic sense of touch, via force feedback devices, as well as 3D visualisation to provide a close match to the surgical situation.



Dr Matthew Hutchins, a virtual environments scientist with the CSIRO ICT Centre, said the goal was to create an environment where an experienced surgeon can guide a novice through the procedure.



“By clearly showing the intricate anatomy of the ear and allowing students to drill away the bone over and over again, under direct supervision, the system provides an amazing teaching and learning experience,” said Hutchins.



University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Innovation and Development, Professor Vijoleta Braach-Maksvytis said that the simulator builds on the success of the University’s earlier invention, the Bionic ear.



“This provides an enhanced level of sophistication and access for surgical training. Feeling is believing – the realism the technology conveys is remarkable,” Professor Braach-Maksvytis said.