Melbourne uni students practice virtual surgery

Students will use virtual reality to perform complex ear 'surgery' with new technology developed by the University of Melbourne, the CSIRO, and Perth-based medical technology company Medic Vision.

The technology, called the temporal bone simulator, imitates the cadavers used by ear, nose and throat student surgeons while allowing instructors to assist from a remote location.

CSIRO ICT Centre virtual environment scientist Dr Matthew Hutchins said students can train for procedures like cochlear implants with guidance from surgeons in a realistic environment.

"By clearly showing the intricate anatomy of the ear and allowing students to drill away the bone over and over again, under direct supervision, the system provides an amazing teaching and learning experience," Hutchins said.

Textbook learning supports the simulator's provision of clinical experience and real-life scenarios by integrating education material into the process. Force feedback devices provide a realistic sense of touch complementing the system's 3D visualization.

University of Melbourne deputy vice-chancellor and innovation and development professor Vijoleta Braach-Maksvytis said the world-first technology is the university's second significant innovation since the bionic ear.

"This provides an enhanced level of sophistication and access for surgical training. Feeling is believing - the realism the technology conveys is remarkable," Braach-Maksvytis said.

The technology is a product of the CSIRO ICT Centre, Medic Vision and the university's department of otolaryngology.

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