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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Uses Surgical Simulator to Train Eye Surgeons

November 29, 2007

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Elizabeth F. Baze, M.D., MEDVAMC ophthalmologist, guides Douglas Marx, M.D., a second-year ophthalmology resident, through a training session with the EYESi ® Surgical Simulator. This device enables the user to experience real intraocular surgery with the use of instruments that feel and function just like their real world counterparts. Photo: Bobbi Gruner, MEDVAMC Public Affairs Officer


HOUSTON – The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) now offers a hands-on learning experience and true-to-life scenario training to its ophthalmology residents and fellows using a highly sophisticated simulator for intraocular surgical training.

The EYESi ® Surgical Simulator is the first ophthalmic virtual reality surgical training system that utilizes modern technology to assist beginning ophthalmic surgeons in their training programs. This device enables the user to experience real intraocular surgery with the use of instruments that feel and function just like their real world counterparts.

Traditionally, residents have honed their surgical skills and techniques in wetlabs working on animal eyes. Using a surgical simulator or drylab, a trainee can repeatedly experience live tissue reactions that occur during surgery. The drylab’s virtual ocular environment realistically depicts the anatomical structure and three-dimensionality of the intraocular space, as well as the physical behavior of delicate tissues. With the simulator, procedures such as peeling of retinal membranes or opening the lens capsule with optimal symmetry and radius can be repeated over and over again. Furthermore, the proficiency gained during the intense drylab experience can be validated through video play back.

“The ophthalmic surgical training simulator, with its high efficiency, is the method of choice when it comes to establishing a more modern way of teaching surgical skills,” said Silvia Orengo-Nania, M.D., Eye Care Line executive. “This new technology is an important tool in enhancing patient safety and improving patient care, two of our prime objectives at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.”

During simulated surgery, the beginning ophthalmic surgeon manipulates realistic handheld instruments that are inserted into an artificial eye. The motion of the instruments and the orientation of the eye are picked up by highly accurate sensors and transmitted to a computer, which renders the virtual operation scenario into the device’s microscope. The simulator can also be used by surgical residents to learn to perform cataract and vitreo-retinal surgery.

This new technology is an extraordinary addition to our resident surgical curriculum,” said Elizabeth F. Baze, M.D., MEDVAMC ophthalmologist.  “Participants are able to develop their skills in a unique and non-threatening environment prior to caring for a patient in a clinical setting.  They have the opportunity to deal with complex medical issues far earlier than other beginning surgeons.”

The MEDVAMC continues to pursue the highest quality of health care possible for our nation’s veterans. This unique ophthalmosurgical training simulator is just one of many initiatives to ensure they are among the first to benefit from scientific advances in medicine.

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