What if you went into the operating room for a high-risk surgery knowing that your surgeon successfully completed the exact same surgery yesterday in another reality? How much more comfortable and trusting would you feel in the doctor about to perform surgery on you? This scenario may seem impossibly far-fetched, but this is, in fact, the future of surgery. Virtual surgery, or performing surgical operations in another reality that does not affect real humans, is a new technology being developed.Those in the medical field are constantly aiming to decrease patient casualties through better training, techniques, and technology. Virtual surgery is one of the latest new ideas proven to make patients safer and doctors more confident in their abilities. What doctor wouldn’t want to receive multiple chances to perform the surgery before actually coming in contact with the real patient? This new possibility in the field of surgery is beneficial to everyone involved.

What Is Virtual Surgery?

In virtual surgery, virtual reality simulators can create a map of a patient’s anatomy and precisely recreate it. This allows surgeons to practice on these images virtually, using surgical techniques and making decisions about how to proceed. This incredible technology allows surgeons to receive their training virtually, which mean that they can make mistakes without affecting anything other than the virtual body they are performing on. The technology is so exact that the anatomical structure of the patient is portrayed in images that correspond exactly to the patient’s body in real life.

This hasn’t been introduced to hospitals yet, but it is predicted that this step will happen imminently. A company in Chicago called Immersive Touch has developed top-notch Virtual Reality devices for medical training. These devices include a platform devoted to surgery, which allows for practice on structures individualized to the patients. This company, along with others, is striving to create the most accurate and advanced medical technology to improve surgery outcomes and decrease patient risk.

What Is the Main Purpose of Virtual Surgery?

OR nurse

Image by Yerson Retamal from Pixabay 

The main purpose of Virtual Surgery to is to train medical students on surgical procedures. The current method of learning surgery is to first watch surgical procedures, then assist in them, and eventually begin doing them yourself. This is the best way to learn in our current world, but unfortunately, there are unavoidable risks for the patients when using conventional training methods. It is less than ideal for a doctor to assist in surgery before being completely competent in techniques, but this is the only way to learn.

Less Anxiety, More Confidence

surgery tools

Image by geudki from Pixabay

One of the most difficult aspects of being a surgeon is dealing with the high stress of a surgical procedure. Especially for inexperienced surgeons, stress and anxiety can cloud the brain and lead to slip-ups and miscalculations. The extreme pressure that a surgeon feels when performing surgery can be exacerbated by inexperience, which is why it would be preferable for inexperienced surgeons to train virtually. Virtual Reality technology creates the feeling that a surgery is real with its realistic anatomical maps and surgical equipment, allowing surgeons to battle their fear and anxiety without putting patients in harm.

Virtual Reality devices are especially effective in helping surgeons to deal with their nerves because these platforms convey multi-dimensional sensations, causing the experience to feel entirely real. A study of a Virtual Surgery of a brain cavity found that students who trained with Virtual Surgery were more capable of finding the brain cavity objects even when they were unable to clearly see.

This improvement in ability will only become more pronounced as technology advances, allowing surgeons to feel that they are truly in the middle of a high-risk operation. Haptic technology, which brings a feeling of touch to the simulations, is the key to providing this real-life sensation.

Another aspect that helps surgeons to lose themselves in a new plane of reality is the usage of realistic tools and textures throughout the simulation. When the surgeon uses a scalpel during the virtual operation, a stylus appears to follow it. As the trainee moves the stylus touches the virtual objects displayed by the computer, the trainee has the sensation that he or she is truly touching the object on the screen. If the stylus touches a bone, the student feels something hard, while if it touches tissue, the student has a sensation of touching a soft material.

Fewer Errors

error

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 

Surgeons using virtual surgery to train can make errors and then learn from them before even touching a real patient. For example, a surgeon performing an operation in virtual reality can make an incision in the wrong place or misplace a catheter and then correct his or her mistake without harming a patient. This opens opportunities for training and helps surgeons to reach a high level of competence and precision before they perform surgeries on patients. Being able to make errors with no true consequences greatly increases the confidence of the doctor, which will result in a more relaxed patient.

The difference in outcome for the patient is a real phenomenon. In a study of sixteen residents performing surgeries on gallbladders, the doctors who used VR simulators to train were six times less likely to make mistakes during the surgery. In contrast, those who had not trained with Virtual Reality were five times more likely to cause harm to the gallbladder during the dissection.

The study also showed that those who trained virtually were faster, performing the operation 29 percent faster than those with no virtual training. This displays the amazing effects of Virtual Reality training and its very real ability to increase accuracy during surgical procedures

More Ethical

Another highlight of Virtual Surgery is that it eliminates the need for cadavers, which are bodies used for surgical practice. In traditional medical school training, patients use cadavers to familiarize themselves with human anatomy and overcome the fear and anxiety that accompanies surgical procedures.

However, these are often difficult to obtain, and many people have ethical issues with their usage because of the belief that this is disrespectful to the dead and should be avoided if possible. Virtual Reality platforms displaying realistic anatomical structures are the ideal replacement for real bodies, and as technology continues to advance, they will become more accessible.

The Future of Virtual Surgery

robotic surgery

Image by alan9187 from Pixabay 

Virtual Surgery is certainly on the horizon when it comes to medical technological advancements. As it develops, researchers predict that it will soon become a central part of training for medical students and residents, along with being available throughout many hospitals. This increase in accuracy and accessibility will result in lower rates of error and patient harm as every surgical procedure will first be attempted virtually to eliminate error. Virtual Surgery will be responsible for highly trained surgeons who are more capable and experienced when it comes to complex and high-risk procedures.

This also creates new opportunities for education along with simply training for medical students. Virtual Reality has the potential to improve the teaching and learning techniques of medical school greatly. In the current world of medicine, it is rare for a medical student to witness a surgery up close, as this can be distracting and stress-inducing for the doctors at work. This causes difficulty for medical students who aim to be surgeons since their learning opportunities are limited.

Virtual Reality eliminates this problem because it allows surgeons to stream their operations globally. This gives medical students the opportunity to watch every incision through their VR goggles, creating the sensation that they are truly there. Along with this exciting new possibility, developers of VR are working on creating educational content using their advanced technology. This will result in better education for surgeons, radiologists, and physicians by allowing students to have access to information and sensations that they previously received much later in their medical careers.

Conclusion

Although Virtual Reality is typically associated with the world of video and computer gaming, this technology could have much more far-reaching effects on our modern world. The idea of practicing a skill or performing an operation in a world where mistakes mean nothing and can be corrected at will is an unfamiliar concept for most us. We are accustomed to having to pay the real-life price of our mistakes in every realm of life, especially those involving the well-being of other people.

However, the technology of Virtual Surgery has transformed training for medical students, making it possible for them to make mistakes that stay virtual forever.

This incredible feat will have many benefits and consequences that will result in better medical care for patients afflicted with a wide range of health issues. It is impossible to know the health crises you may experience throughout your lifetime, a fact that leads many people to anxiety and fear. However, as technology advances, it ensures that doctors and hospitals will be more skilled and competent when dealing with health issues. As Virtual Surgery becomes more developed and advanced, the risk of patients decreases, resulting in a safer world for all.