UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 12 | Oct.
UBC Research Offers Med Students Injection of Virtual Reality
New training tool is welcome news for patients
By Hilary Thomson
Turning patients into pincushions when students are learning
to insert a needle may be a thing of the past once a UBC medical
training tool becomes available.
Currently in development, the computer-based virtual reality
simulator will help medical students master the art of needle
insertion in a safe and realistic environment.
Medical students now have to learn the procedure through
trial and error, says Simon DiMaio, a PhD student in
the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering who is building
the simulator as his thesis project. With an increasing
number of advanced therapies being delivered by needle, its
becoming critical to be precise.
The simulator has two components: an on-screen computer
model of tissue and a robotic arm no bigger than a shoebox.
The model allows the student to see where the needle is going.
Moving the robotic arm replicates the sensation of needle
moving through tissue to help students learn the degree of
pressure and steering required to get the needle to its target
Biopsies, anesthesia and various cancer treatments require
needle placement to be accurate within millimetres. Surgeons
must guide needles that may be long and flexible through complex
anatomy solely by feel and experience. Inaccurate placement
can lead to significant complications such as biopsy false
negatives, incorrect medication or radiation dose, longer
procedure times, patient discomfort and tissue damage.
DiMaio and supervisor Prof. Tim Salcudean are developing
the technology to include various types of needle and sites
comprising complex layers of tissue.