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Training Surgeons for Skull-base Procedures with Virtual Reality Simulator

People with diseases or conditions that affect the base of the skull, such as otologic abnormalities, cancerous tumours and birth defects, might need to undergo skull base surgery at some point in their life. Surgeons must skillfully operate on and within a person’s skull, accessing specific regions using drills to successfully conduct these challenging procedures.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) have recently developed a new system that could be used to train surgeons to complete skull base surgeries, as well as potentially other complex surgical procedures. This system, presented in a paper published in Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering: Imaging & Visualisation, is based on the use of a virtual reality (VR) simulator.

The process of drilling requires surgeons to remove minimal amounts of bone while ensuring that important structures (such as nerves and vessels) housed within the bone are not harmed. Therefore, skull base surgeries require high skill, absolute precision, and sub-millimetre accuracy. Achieving these surgical skills requires diligent training to ensure the safety of patients.

Currently, most resident surgeons are trained to complete skull base surgeries and other procedures on cadavers or on live people under the supervision of experienced doctors. However, realistic computer simulations and virtual environments could significantly enhance the training of surgeons, offering a cost-effective, safe and reproducible alternative to traditional training methods.

In addition to allowing surgeons to practice their skills in a safe and realistic setting, simulation tools enable the collection of valuable data that would otherwise be harder to attain. This includes optimal trajectories for surgical tools, the forces that are imparted during a procedure, or the position of cameras/endoscopes.

This data is beneficial for two purposes. Firstly, it could be used to train Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms that can assist surgeons in the operating room and make procedures safer. Secondly, by comparing surgical data from residents in training and expert surgeons, educators could individualise training and make the limited time trainees have for education more efficient.

– Adnan Munawar

The VR-based system created by the researchers allows resident and experienced surgeons to practise complex surgical procedures within simulated environments that are based on the computer tomography (CT) scans of real patients. In addition, the simulator can be used to record structured data. This data could eventually be used to assess the skills of trainees or to train machine learning algorithms that could assist surgeons during complex procedures.

So far, the system provides an immersive simulation environment where the surgeons can interact with a virtual skull which is generated from a patient CT (Computer Tomography) scan. A virtual drill that is controlled via a haptic device (or a keyboard) is used to drill through the virtual skull. The interaction between the drill and the skull is used to generate force feedback which is provided via the haptic device for realistic tactility. Finally, for visual realism and depth perception, stereoscopic video is displayed on a VR (Virtual Reality) headset.

The immediate plan is to deploy the system in the Johns Hopkins Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery department to be used by skilled surgeons as well as residents for practice and data collection. The collected data will be used to establish a quantitative evaluation protocol to characterise surgical performance, which is not presented by prior works. We shall also use the data for developing artificial intelligence algorithms for computer-assisted surgeries, such as tool/tissue tracking and 3D reconstruction algorithms.”

U.S. researchers have been creating advanced technologies in medicine, such as a new robotic neck brace. As reported by OpenGov Asia, this robotic neck brace may help doctors analyse the impact of cancer treatments on the neck mobility of patients and guide their recovery. Head and neck cancer was the seventh most common cancer worldwide in 2018, with 890,000 new cases and 450,000 deaths, accounting for 3% of all cancers and more than 1.5% of all cancer deaths in the United States.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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As a Titanium Black Partner of Dell Technologies, CTC Global Singapore boasts unparalleled access to resources.

Established in 1972, we bring 52 years of experience to the table, solidifying our position as a leading IT solutions provider in Singapore. With over 300 qualified IT professionals, we are dedicated to delivering integrated solutions that empower your organization in key areas such as Automation & AI, Cyber Security, App Modernization & Data Analytics, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Renowned for our consulting expertise and delivering expert IT solutions, CTC Global Singapore has become the preferred IT outsourcing partner for businesses across Singapore.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.