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Virtual surgery at RPI

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Updated: 2/08/2011 6:27 pm
Virtual surgery at RPI gives students a look in inside the human body. The esophagus, stomach, spleen and liver are all in view for surgery called gastric banding.

"I'm just burning ligaments and fat," says RPI researcher Ganesh Sankaranarayanan.

Smoke can be seen as tools make their way through the tissue.

But it's not a hospital or a real person on the operating table -- it's a simulator.

"You don't want to train with actual real life patients," says RPI Professor Suvranu De. "That's the reason training on simulators is essential."

De says it's the most realistic technology available, and it was designed right on the RPI campus.

It's purpose is to sharpen skills and efficiency and in turn, reduce the risks of surgery.

"More is at stake," says De. "We have many many human lives at stake."

Here's how it works: the surgical tools are set up just as they would be on a real person. On the handles are sensors, so every move you make plays out on a monitor. Just like a video game, you get a score. The better you are, the higher the level.

"The goal is to eventually get into the expert group," Sankaranarayanan. "That means you're really proficient."

Just like the old saying, practice makes perfect. And De says that's the purpose of the simulator.

"I absolutely believe so," he says. "Well trained surgeons directly relate to reduction of fatalities."

All of the technology was developed using grant money. RPI is in the process of transitioning the designs back into the medical community for real life use.
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