Using Virtual-Reality Simulation to Improve Brain Surgery Outcomes

Virtual-reality simulation, designed to improve outcomes and reduce complications in patients undergoing brain surgery, is being pioneered at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai as an innovative training tool for neurosurgery residents and as a program to help experienced surgeons advance their skill-sets.

The Brain Surgery Simulation Program, led by Joshua B. Bederson, MD, Professor and Chair of Neurosurgery at Mount Sinai, is using two simulators: the NeuroTouch Simulation System and Surgical Theater. Each has 3D software and handheld surgical controls to provide visual, touch, and sound feedback to the practitioner. A computer-generated “score” evaluates key measures, such as the amount of tumor removed, and the extent of bleeding and damage to healthy tissue. The Simulation Program team includes neurosurgeons, as well as neurologists, radiologists, residents, MD/PhD students, statisticians, and computational scientists.

Neurosurgical simulation will allow surgeons, who were previously unable to rehearse brain surgery using patient-specific data, to input brain images from a patient and information about comorbidities, create a 3D rendering of the patient’s brain, and practice a procedure in advance of actual surgery, using the patient’s virtual anatomy.

“We believe that brain surgery simulation could potentially revolutionize the way we train and evaluate our surgeons,” says Dr. Bederson. “By giving residents and faculty simulation training, as well as the opportunity to rehearse surgeries in the future, we expect to improve the safety of surgery and continue to advance the skills of our surgeons, in an effort to achieve better outcomes for our patients.”

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