Virtual-reality simulations offer medical residents hands-on practice

The procedure was over in a matter of minutes.

Dr. Cynthia Kahlenberg, a fourth-year medical resident at Hospital for Special Surgery, had done her best to get her bearings in the cavernous operating room. She initially dropped a surgical rod before successfully placing it in the tibia of a sedated patient with a broken leg.

The patient had been jogging in Central Park and was struck by a cab, explained Dr. Anil Ranawat, an orthopedic surgeon and director of the sports medicine fellowship at Hospital for Special Surgery. He chided Kahlenberg for making the surgical hole too large, although he was impressed with her speed.

But under the bright surgical lamp on the stainless steel table in front of her, there was no patient with a broken leg—only a laptop running the software projected into Kahlenberg’s headset. When she took off her virtual-reality goggles, she was back in the Bioskills Education Lab on the eighth-floor of HSS in Manhattan.

The orthopedic specialty hospital is testing new software from Palo Alto, Calif.-based Osso VR. The technology could offer a way for residents at HSS and other hospitals to hone their surgical skills before progressing to other types of simulations, such as operating on cadavers.

Virtual reality is emerging in healthcare as a high-tech solution to problems as varied as training doctors, reducing medical errors and helping patients manage pain. The technology’s proponents wax enthusiastic about its potential to provide on-demand training. But others say it still has a long way to go to replicate a real-world medical environment.

Virtual-reality simulations could prove particularly useful in many procedure-based areas of medicine, such as anesthesia, to introduce new physicians to the steps needed to complete a task, said Dr. Mathias Bostrom, a hip and knee surgeon and the vice chairman of education and academic affairs at HSS.

Bostrom first spotted Osso VR at a trade show and was impressed when the company came to the hospital to demonstrate the technology. “Certain industries such as aviation have been doing simulation for many decades,” he said. “It’s been relatively late in coming into medicine and surgery.”

By Jonathan LaMantia | Modern Healthcare

Image Credit: Osso VR


About Peter Coffaro 605 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the medical device industry. As a District Sales Manager for Stryker Orthopaedics, Peter was responsible for managing and directing a regional sales force to achieve sales and profit goals within the Rocky Mountain region. Previously, he was the Director of Sales & Marketing for Amp Orthopedics. In this role, Peter was responsible for planning, developing, and leading all sales and marketing initiatives. Peter is a former orthopedic distributor in the Pacific Northwest. He has also worked with DePuy Orthopaedics as well as Zimmer, and held positions in sales, sales training, and sales management. Peter has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, negotiating and P&L management. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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