Professor Suvranu De is working to make virtual surgery feel like the real thing. He is a specialist in haptics, the science of touch. He is developing virtual surgery simulator that will allow surgeons to touch, feel, and manipulate computer-generated organs with actual tool handles used in actual surgery. This means when you use the virtual scalpel to cut into a virtual kidney, it will feel like the real thing – the tool you’re using has an advanced touch-feedback system that exhibits the same resistance, sponginess, and flexibility as a real kidney.
The above video was created by MANE Post-Doc Research Associate Ganesh Sankaranarayanan, a member of De’s research group. It features a medical student from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center testing the new haptically-enhanced virtual surgery simulator. The procedure is a Lap Band, one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States, which entails placing a silicone band around the top of the stomach, via minimally-invasive laparoscopic surgery, as measure to combat weight gain. De’s lab is partnering with Beth Israel on demonstrating and testing the system.
So why is virtual surgery important? Along with providing objective, measureable data with which to score assess budding doctors (not unlike how budding fighter pilots first practice and are assessed on flight simulators), virtual surgery training could reduce the need for using animals and human cadavers for medical training.