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Virtual practice to help avoid surgical errors in reality

Patients needing surgery in Massachusetts might find it reassuring that technology is being developed to enhance the training of new physicians. More surgical errors might be avoided by new doctors using virtual reality simulation to practice their surgical techniques before trying them in the operating room.

Doctors at the University of Minnesota began working with area medical device manufacturers in order to create groundbreaking simulation software to train future medical students in the biggest change in such training since the turn of the last century. Before the advent of computer simulators in the late 1990s, surgeons gained hands-on experience only with living patients and only with mentors looking over their shoulders.

The key to providing hands-on experience without any risk of harm to patients is the building of anatomical models more lifelike than any made before, according the University of Minnesota's director of Medical School Simulation Programs. The advancing technology should be able to produce custom digital models of patients' organs so that surgeons can practice complex procedures before the patient has even been wheeled into the OR.

The technology is spreading from the University setting as well. Software developed by UM's simulation effort created a urology simulator for an area company that is being used around the globe.

Perhaps electronic practice on digital organs will reduce cases of surgical errors in the future. For now, however, surgeon malpractice can injure or kill, and victims of a surgeon's mistake, such as wrong-site surgery, may be held liable in a court of law for their mistakes. An attorney may be a patient's ally in the seeking of financial compensation for damages.

Source: Hispanic Business, "Hands on surgery, minus the patient: U researchers refine use of simulators to practice surgery", Dan Browning, December 08, 2013

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