It might be OK to see a trainee tag affixed to the chest of someone serving you a burger, but quite another to see the same tag on the chest of your surgeon as you’re put under before an operation. Of course that’s not the reality with trainee surgeons getting practice alongside more experienced surgeons and on cadavers. But cadavers don’t grow on trees – thankfully – and practicing on live patients exposes them to some risk. Now two Buffalo scientists have paired up to create a new procedure-based, hands-on surgical training software system that promises to deliver effective training in emerging robot-assisted surgical techniques.
Known as Hands-On Surgical Training (HOST), the patent-pending system was developed by Khurshid Guru, MD, a staff physician in Urology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) and Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas, PhD, director of the Virtual Reality Laboratory and a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University at Buffalo (UB).
Using the Robotic Surgical Simulator (RoSS) interface, the system prompts and guides trainees in real-time through the critical stages of an operation before proceeding to the next step. A metrics tool evaluates user performance so that surgeons can track their progress. That step-by-step prompting system is unique in the field of computer-assisted surgical learning tools, as is HOST’s basis in observational learning.
The two scientists created RoSS as a way to help surgeons hone their skills in robot-assisted surgery so that they’ve logged hours of training before they perform a particular surgical procedure. They say the HOST software system takes this concept further, immersing the trainee in a surgical environment using automation technology and an interactive checklist-based process.
“It’s as close to operating as you can get outside the operating room,” says Dr. Guru, who is also director of RPCI’s Center for Robotic Surgery. “HOST literally holds the surgeon’s hands.”
“Building on our past collaborations,” notes Dr. Kesavadas, “we developed a process for capturing the cognitive and motor skills of a trained surgeon and developed a virtual surgical experience for other surgeons to train on. This new system teaches the steps by guiding users in actually performing a surgery in tandem with the master surgeon —outside the operating room. ”
At present, the HOST software system has been programmed to demonstrate two of the most common procedures within the field of robot-assisted surgery: prostatectomy and hysterectomy. Applications that would expand the HOST software for use in other types of surgeries are in development.
“This concept, which we’ve been working on since 2007 at UB and Roswell Park, has been licensed to Simulated Surgical Systems LLC (SSS) and will be ready for implementation with RoSS by the end of the year,” says Dr. Kesavadas, Chief Technology Officer of the Williamsville, NY company. Dr. Guru is SSS’ Chief Medical Officer.