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Virtual Reality Operations Should Restore Confidence

An interactive virtual reality environment for planning and rehearsing surgical procedures, developed with EU Framework funding, should help reduce fears over the reduction in the time surgeons spend training.

Based on data from real patients, the IERAPSI initiative was made possible by a grant of 2.1 million from the Information Society Technology (IST) Programme of the European Unions Framework Programme. From the start, the project partners - in the UK, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands and France - set out to design a system that could be utilised for surgical training as well as enabling qualified consultants to rehearse real operations on individual patients before the actual event. We worked with surgeons from day one to make ensure that we did not just develop technology for technologies' sake but systems that met the needs of the end user, says Prof. Nigel John, who was the IERAPSI Project Coordinator at the University of Manchester. I would expect the training aspects of the system to go a long way towards allaying some of the concerns expressed over plans to reduce the number of hours junior doctors need to clock up before they can become consultants. When surgeons are learning to be surgeons, the old training adage was 'see one, do one, teach one'. Obviously, this wasn't always ideal for the first patient of a new surgeon. So this ability to do the initial assessment and practice in a virtual reality environment is a great advantage. The IERAPSI project has demonstrated the potential of using advanced virtual environments for the planning and rehearsal of complex surgical procedures. Key to the success of the project has been the inter-disciplinary team of computer scientists, clinicians, and human factor experts that was put together to develop the IERAPSI systems. Peter Walters, UK National Contact Point for IST within the EUs 6th Framework Programme, believes the IERAPSI project shows the major contribution EU funding is making in the development of information and communications technology: This project demonstrates how, with the right financial support, the uses of information technology can be broadened to play a much wider and significant role in our futures. Without almost two thirds funding from the EUs Framework Programme this project may not have been possible. The Framework Programmes are the EUs main vehicle for support of leading edge, internationally collaborative R&D. The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free information on how to access some of the 17.5bn available should log on to http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080. The project researchers successfully developed a system with two main components. Tempo Review - an interactive 3D visualisation application primarily for viewing different tissue types acquired from patient-specific data - enables the surgeon to carry out pre-operative planning. Tempo Reality - a visual and haptic surgical simulator, characterised by a physically-based contact model and the use of patient-specific data acquired from CT scanners - provides realistic modelling of drill-bone interaction, including the effect of using different drill bits and including any secondary forces. "Using Tempo Reality gives the surgeon the same feeling as if he is drilling into the real bone," says Professor John. Professor Nigel John is very positive about the prospects for IERAPSI, saying: This is a real advance on earlier virtual reality approaches as the data used for 3D visualisation is derived from Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of the actual patient to be operated on. This allows the surgeon to prepare for the operation and rehearse the actual procedure before entering the operating theatre. Around half a dozen commercial companies around the world are already working in this area. These systems are likely to become more widespread, even if only for the training application alone. Their uses as a practical aid are obvious - as a way of preparing for individual operations, but also for testing surgical skills - you could even have a kind of surgeon's driving test!"The EU's Framework Programmes are the worlds largest, publicly funded, research and technological development programmes. The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) covers the period 2002-2006 and is the European Unions main instrument for the funding of collaborative research and innovation. It is open to public and private entities of all sizes in the EU and a number of non-EU countries. It has an overall budget of 17.5 billion. Most of the budget for FP6 is devoted to work in seven priority thematic areas:,? Life sciences, Genetics and Biotechnology for Health;,? Information Society Technologies;,? Nanotechnologies and Nanosciences, Knowledgebased Multifunctional Materials and New Production Processes and Devices;,? Aeronautics and Space;,? Food Quality and Safety;,? Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems; and,? Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society. There is also a focus on the research activities of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) across all seven thematic areas. The services of FP6UK are funded by the Office of Science & Technology (OST) / Department of Trade & Industry (DTI). More information can be found on http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk ,IST Programme ,The IST Priority Thematic Area (PTA) of the 6th Framework Programme(FP6) is the largest of the seven PTAs with a budget of 3.6bn over the lifetime of FP6. The first Call for proposals with a budget of 1070m - closed in April 2003. The second Call closed on 15 October 2003 and had a budget of 525m. The 3rd Call for proposals will be announced in early June 2004 along with a Joint Call with the Priority 3 area -Nanotechnologies, Materials and Production technologies.

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Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom