For decades virtual reality simulation has been used in military and civilian aviation; the surgical simulation is one example of how the UK government aims to replicate the safety culture of the airline industry in the health service.
Virtual reality simulators offer training methods through a medium where no one sustains any harm. The old surgical training methods of learning techniques through a “see one, do one, teach one” approach on patients are no longer appropriate.
Studies highlight that performance on simulators such as commercial simulators for knee and shoulder arthroscopy, correlate to surgical experience level, indicating they may have use in assessing surgical competence in the future.
Recently attempts have been made to develop simulators for more complex open surgeries. At ORI the first total knee replacement VR simulator developed by Ossim Technologies is in undergoing validation. This simulators relies on haptic (force feedback when instruments come in contact with virtual tissues) in response to images on screen.
The available VR simulators provide a good method to understand the stages involved in an increasing number of common procedures for inexperienced surgeon and other member of the theatre. In the future, higher fidelity immersive simulations using the likes of Microsoft’s HoloLens and Oculus Rift are likely to be developed, which will allow experienced surgeons to simulate real operations before they perform them in order to maintain their skills.