The NeuroTouch Simulation Project

As a first-year neurosurgery resident at Mount Sinai, I am continuously reminded of the seamless integration of innovative surgical technology and its ability to positively affect the outcomes of our patients. In fact, when I was a medical student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, I remember being fascinated by the “high-tech” feel of a neurosurgical operating room. Everything, from the microscope, to the cranial and spinal navigation systems seemed like something straight out of a science fiction movie. I realized that neurosurgery was a rapidly evolving field that was fueled by cutting-edge technology. It is one the reasons why I ultimately decided to join the ranks of the neurosurgeons I always idealized as a medical student. With this in mind, I am excited for the opportunity to describe my experiences with the launch our neurosurgery department’s NeuroTouch Simulation Project.

To provide a bit of background, in 2009, the National Research Council of Canada introduced the NeuroTouch, a one-of-a-kind physics-based virtual simulator for cranial micro-neurosurgery training. The development of similar virtual reality simulation devices within the past decade has enabled residents to practice basic surgical procedures in a risk-free environment. These devices have progressively increased in sophistication, playing an increasingly important role in the education and training of new surgeons. In September 2012, The Department of Neurosurgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center became the first in the United States to purchase the NeuroTouch Simulator.

The NeuroTouch provides a surgery-like environment including a stereoscopic 3-D vision of specific canned surgeries and two instruments with adjustable forces: suction and cauterization. This simulator accurately calculates and displays in real-time the deformation of the brain tissues in accordance with the force applied from the suction and cauterization as applied by the operator of the machine. At the end of the “surgery”, the simulator also provides feedback on the surgery, including metrics such as the amount of blood loss, amount of tumor resected, the amount of excessive force used, etc.

Our project will examine the correlation between learning on the NeuroTouch and performance in the operating room. We hypothesize that an individual’s learning curve, as measured by serial exposure to a defined set of tasks on the NeuroTouch simulator, will be an accurate predictor of surgical skill and confidence in the operating room. It is our hope that the NeuroTouch will prove to be a valuable addition to the training of neurosurgery residents not only at Mount Sinai, but all over the United States. We are thrilled to be one of the first neurosurgery programs to be involved in this research.

In fact, we are also inviting Mount Sinai medical students to help us with the data collection portions of our research. Those who are interested can click here, read the instructions, and become involved with our project. Like my neurosurgery colleagues who work tirelessly to improve the lives of our patients day in and day out, we hope to put together a team of dedicated individuals who wish to make a difference in the neurosurgical community. Help us change the lives of our patients for the better; help us transform the field of neurosurgery forever.

Jonathan Rasouli, MD, is a Neurosurgery Resident at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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