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Medical Technology Allows Med Students to Perform Virtual Surgery

Written by Courteney

Posted on March 7, 2017 at 2:09 am

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Medical cadavers are a freaky thought for many, but for decades, they were the only available method of surgery practice for med students. However, rapidly advancing medical technology has come up with an alternative: virtual surgery on a 3D digital model of the human body. Cool! It is a hotly debated subject in the medical community, as virtual surgery has clear drawbacks, but it presents itself as a viable complementary alternative for med students. Let’s take a closer look:

How Does Virtual Surgery Work?

To view a VR hologram of a cadaver, the medical student wears 3D active shutter glasses that utilize liquid crystal technology that is synchronized with the image projector. The amazing anatomically accurate 3D models were developed for the Visible Human Project, whereby participating scientists and technological developers created over 5000 TIFF images taken of a person’s cadaver (externally and internally). They used one male cadaver and one female that were preserved for medical science purposes since the 1990s. Students can hone in on any one the digital cadaver’s organs and use surgical tools to simulate cutting into it. Some VR surgery rooms have multiple motion sensor cameras that tap into the 3D glasses that allow the student to walk around the body, viewing it from different angles in the round. This makes the experience even more like reality.

Some of The Pros Of Digital Surgery For Medical Students

VR can provide med students amazing tools that were never before available to help train them for surgery. Some of the many pros of digital surgery include:

  • Students can access a cadaver at any time to practice surgery techniques or interactively learn about anatomy.
  • Virtual surgery can build the students’ confidence by giving them a platform on which to continuously learn and perfect their knowledge of the human body.
  • It can help the student develop and hone psychomotor skills.
  • It can help build teamwork skills as several students can view and “work on” the digital cadaver at once.
  • It can reduce the number of cadavers that must be obtained and kept on hand for medical training.

Will Technology Make Medical Cadavers a Thing of the Past?

Some medical professionals and professors believe virtual surgery has too many limitations and doesn’t provide the hands-on nitty-gritty experience needed to educate them on real-life surgery. However, many disagree with this viewpoint, believing technology is the future for medical science and training. In an interview about this subject in Forbes magazine, New York’s Dr. Robert Glatter wrote, “VR can open up an entirely new world of possibilities to experience the tense, real-world clinical situations which require rapid thinking and quick analysis for management of critically ill patients”.

Digital Surgery Can Help Supplement Traditional Training

We examined some of the pros of digital surgery for medical students, however it does have drawbacks. Clearly it cannot completely provide the hands-on training that performing surgery on an actual medical cadaver would. It is important students still have access to cadavers for some parts of their education, but digital surgery can provide top-tier supplemental practice and training for them as well. The benefits that digital surgery can provide for students cannot be refuted, however, a mix of both would likely provide the best overall training experience.

Boy, isn’t medical technology astounding? Thanks for visiting DocChat!

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