'Virtual' Patient Will Help Train Future Surgeons; Uni Professor Leads the Way in Developing Body Simulations
Byline: STEVE BAGNALL
A UNIVERSITY is creating 'computer-simulated' virtual patient to train clinicians The technology is currently in development at Bangor University to create complete whole body 'simulations' to train surgeons and other medical professional how to undertake medical procedures, using 'virtual' dummies that appear to be there, and even 'feel' as though they're there, by use of 3D computer graphics and haptic or 'force feedback' devices.
Leading the field in Wales in developing this technology is Bangor University's Professor Nigel John, an expert in visualisation technology at the School of Computer Science.
Prof John leads the Advanced Medical Image Analysis and Visualisation Unit within the School and also the Research Institute of Visual Computing (RIVIC), in partnership with the NHS in Wales and Aberystwyth, Cardiff and Swansea Universities.
One of the main focuses of Prof John's team at Bangor is adapting visual computing and virtual reality to provide cost-effective learning for a range of medical procedures.
He has recently returned from a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship to Australia and Singapore. The visit enabled Professor John to establish opportunities for international collaboration on projects that can contribute to the creation of a Virtual Interactive Patient (VIP) - a patient specific computerised database containing the required image data, physiology, and pathology models that can be interacted with in real time using natural senses and skills.
The objective is for the VIP to become both an accepted tool in the medical education curriculum and an aid to the medical practitioner carrying out daily tasks.
Prof John said: " We are now planning to work together on projects for training endoscopy procedures, and for image driven haptics - devices which allow force and tactile feedback to be added to interaction with medical images." While computer-based simulation technology can provide a safe environment for training medical procedures, there are many issues to overcome, from technology limitations, human factors, and validation. Professor Nigel John's team at Bangor University have already developed simulations for particular medical procedures used by interventional radiologists for inserting catheters into arteries - and a feedback system for inserting a needle into a kidney or liver - where the trainee holding the 'needle' feels resistance as the needle is pushed through 'virtual flesh' that can be seen on the screen. …