Dr. D. Richard Kang and Dr. Gregory Wiet, pediatric otolaryngologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus Ohio and Ohio State University (OSU), visited Escuela Hospital Antonio Lenin Fonseca in Managua, Nicaragua in January. This was their fourth annual trip to the facility which serves as the country’s focal point for medical and surgical training.
When they arrived in Nicaragua, Kang and Wiet presented a “virtual temporal bone dissection” course. Participants were trained on the “Virtual Temporal Bone” surgery simulation system developed at Nationwide and OSU in conjunction with the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) and with NIH funding.
“The system creates real-time, interactive computer simulations for surgeons to learn the difficult and delicate surgical techniques associated with ear surgery, that can involve drilling into a bone in the skull called the temporal bone,” explained Don Stredney, Senior Research Scientist for Biomedical Applications at OSU where his team helped develop the simulation. “Because the temporal bone lies close to a major artery and critical nerves for the face, learning to perform the surgery can be tricky.”
Without a virtual simulation environment, medical residents have to learn how to do the surgery by working on cadavers and through apprenticeships in an operating room. However, in some countries, cadaveric material is not readily available.
The system makes use of a laptop computer with powerful graphics processing capability and a haptic device to provide force feedback. This feature enables the surgical trainee to have a feel for the drill interacting with the temporal bone. “With this type of training, surgeons are not only learning with their eyes, but also with their sense of touch,” noted Wiet.
Stredney and Wiet believe that the simulation technology will increase the efficiency of a resident’s training while raising their proficiency and in addition, provide a safe, cost effective way to help students in the early stages while they are developing surgical techniques.
Kang and Wiet plan to continue to return to Nicaragua on a regular basis not only to provide care for the population but also to continue to deliver high tech training to the region’s otolaryngology community.