Virtual reality training tools provide a new and different way of learning
A few short years ago, most orthopaedic surgeons would not think that in as early as 2017 the industry would develop a technique whereby virtual reality tools are used to train orthopaedic surgeons. However, this year at the EFORT Annual Congress in Vienna, this technology was presented by more companies than in the past, which makes one wonder how virtual reality training tools will influence how orthopaedic surgeons are trained in the future. Is this technology only applicable for the young, upcoming surgeons or may more experienced surgeons also benefit? How will hospital leadership and owners view this new option? These are some relevant questions to address in the future.
My department had the opportunity to have one of the newest virtual reality systems installed for 2 weeks and we trained with it. Our goal was to learn about the new technique and to witness how younger, inexperienced surgeons performed on a virtual reality training system compared with the senior, high-volume surgeons. We trained only with the total knee replacement set-up. Surprisingly (or not), our younger colleagues adapted quicker to “the surgical game” and performed the surgery as precisely and quickly as the senior surgeons and, in some cases, the younger surgeons performed significantly better (safer).
System resolution, quality
Next, we learned that the senior surgeons rated the system by noting it still missed more important details in TKR, knowing that we possibly were training with version 1.0 and newer versions were expected to come out that would clearly improve the resolution and quality of the system.
However, I am convinced that virtual reality surgical training will have a major place in the coming years for training, especially for young orthopaedic surgeons who are on their way to becoming specialists. It will familiarize them with the surgical approach, improving their knowledge when they are either assisting in surgery or, of course, when they are performing real surgery. The key point here is patient safety. I can also see benefits from the system because, after having assisted in surgery, the trainee can go to the virtual reality tool and view detailed aspects of a case that he or she may have questioned or wondered about during the actual surgery.
Moreover, it is evident that young people find such a tool of great interest. At a time when not enough specialists are working in an increasing number of regions in Europe, when medical students have a virtual reality training tool or system presented to them, they may ultimately have a more positive feeling about orthopaedic surgery. This possibly may entice more medical students to explore orthopaedic surgery as a specialty after their final exam at the university.
Scientific studies needed
What value will virtual reality tools have for the experienced surgeon? Some experienced surgeons may think these will have no place. However, I am convinced this technology will further develop to the extent that we may eventually use these systems as a way to be introduced to new surgical techniques, new implants and the specific ways in which these are implanted.
I hope we all look forward to learning more about virtual reality training tools, the benefits and limitations, and especially to seeing scientific publications on the application of these in the clinic.
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- Per Kjaersgaard-Andersen, MD, is Chief Medical Editor of Orthopaedics Today Europe. He can be reached at Orthopaedics Today Europe, 6900 Grove Rd., Thorofare, NJ 08086, USA; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Kjaersgaard-Andersen reports no relevant financial disclosures.