Robotic Surgery Simulation Training

With the da Vinci Virtual Reality Simulator

Enter Mimic Technologies, Inc. Mimic Technologies has been dedicated to the education of surgeons on surgical Robots since 2003. To date, the company’s simulation technology is available at approximately 1,200 medical facilities worldwide. Mimic’s simulation technology was modeled after the da Vinci surgical Robot to allow surgeons to more quickly and accurately advance their basic skills in Robotic Surgery- all before performing surgery on live patients. It’s a stand-alone unit that mimics the robotic controls that can be easily wheeled into any room for 24 hour, 7 days a week access.

Mimic Technologies has more recently developed and tested a new prototype. This prototype is known as the next generation simulation technology, incorporating augmented reality that combines 3D surgical video and real-time simulation technology. This technology is designed to mirror real surgery, further shorten the learning curve, advance surgical training and leverage technical experience with more accuracy than standard simulators.

As Dr. Jeff Berkley, founder and CEO of Mimic Technologies, explains, “To develop surgical expertise, a surgeon must typically perform a large number of surgical cases on patients. This new technology addresses the challenge of procedure-specific training and allows surgeons to identify the anatomy, demonstrate technical skills, and learn the steps necessary for highly complex operations in order to advance their expertise without involving live patients.” For example, recent study results noted by Dr. Jeff Berkley indicate that a rigorous simulation curriculum enabled surgeons with procedure experience, but no robotic experience, to perform a hysterectomy, or uterus removal, at an expert level on the first case. This is not say that all doctors would be able to perform Robotic surgery at the expert level following 1st time curriculum completion without any clinical experience. Still, this next generation technology holds promise for the medical community and people in need of delicate operations, as follows.

The Training Benefits
Mimic’s current simulator platform can help assess a surgeon’s acquisition of fundamental skills, such as robot control and suturing. Mimic’s new software platform is focused on procedure specific training and surgical scenario variability. “Now we can train using 3D video footage of real live surgeries in an interactive platform to simulate the actual surgical environment,” says Dr. Andrew Hung, principle investigator and chief resident of Urology at the University of Southern California. “With this augmented reality platform, users can hone in on the development and enhancement of the most relevant skills in robotic surgery.” In essence, the prototype for the next generation Mimic Simulator offers a way for surgeons to complement basic skills training by teaching advanced tasks relevant to each step of a particular surgery.

The Credentialing Advantage
Educators can use Mimic’s current simulator to identify a surgical student’s level of skill when using the Robot. Hospitals can use this technology to determine if a consult surgeon has adequate expertise to use the robots on patients. As Dr. Tim Brand of Fox Island, WA explains, “I have found that students in residency programs who have the benefit of current simulation technology from the start proceed through their residency program with demonstrations of a very high level of competency on the Robot. As such, many highly experienced residents are appropriately given significant responsibilities by the end of their residency program. Simulation technology in the right hands offers surgeons the opportunity for higher quality operations and offers patients quicker recoveries.” Dr. Brand is a Urologic Oncologist. He also holds numerous other responsibilities, including: Program Director, Urology Residency, Madigan Army Medical Center; Chair, Madigan Cancer Committee; Chair, IACUC, Madigan Army Medical Center; Chair, Robotics Steering Committee, Army Medical Center; and SGSU Representative to the Young Urologists Committee, AUA.

The Patient Rewards
The potential ability for more surgeons to perform complex surgery is highly advantageous for the medical community. In turn, more people may benefit from the minimally invasive approach that is enabled by Robotic technology. With the capability for surgeons to view many types of complex surgeries, they may be better prepared to optimize the surgical experience for patients as well.  As Thomas Sean Lendvay, MD, FACS, Co-Director of the Seattle Robotic Surgery Center at the Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, adds, “While enhancing skill level for select tasks is a work in progress for simulation technology, numerous portions of learning are easier when compared to the Laparoscopic approach. In fact, recent study results suggest cognitive and technical errors were reduced 4-fold in a dry lab setting and based on these results we are testing warm-ups for patient surgery.” The use of a Robot during surgery does not imply better surgery. Instead, the technology enables surgeons to execute complex minimally invasive tasks that would be challenging with a traditional minimally invasive approach.

In the end, robotic skills are ultimately dependent on the surgeon’s technique, expertise and level of experience using the robot technology. As Dr. Robert Sweet of Minneapolis MN adds, “Currently, Medical Robotics is a facilitator. In the future, Robotic technology will be transformative. We need to be prepared for this transformation with mentorship programs, doctorate programs, advanced simulation technology and other training approaches that complement each other to allow surgeons and patients to benefit from this advancement.” Dr. Sweet is Associate Professor, Urologic Surgeon at University of Minnesota and President of the Society for Laparoendoscopic Surgeons. Dr. Sweet is also on the Board of Directors for the Society for Laparoendoscopic Surgeons; and is the Director, Medical School Simulation Programs for the University of Minnesota, and is a recent member of American Urologic Association Laparoscopy, Robotics and New Technology Committee.

Next Visit, Top Docs Review Robotic Surgery

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