December 10th, 2015 | The Blog
How do surgeons prepare to perform an intricate life-saving procedure? They observe a lot of operations and assist with some of the procedures. At Boston Children’s Hospital, that is the old-fashioned way to learn. The new regime is to practice with hands-on life-like models until they get it right without risking the health or safety of a live patient.
Residents training at Boston Children’s Hospital are doing practice runs on plastic body parts. The plastic models look and feel real on the outside with 3-D printed organs on the inside.
The models are created and manufactured by a California make-up and special effects company, Fractured FX. Fractured FX usually produces special effects for television but now, they are working with Boston Children?s Hospital to perfect life-saving surgical procedures.
The Simulator Program (SIM)
The surgery practice program is called the Simulator Program. It allows surgeons to actually rehearse and perfect complex procedures before touching a live patient.
Standardly, some training physicians use a cadaver. The downside of using cadavers is the expense and the fact that they are not reusable. There is also not realistic pulsing when using a cadaver, which is an added feature in the SIM models.
A profitable by-product of the Simulator Program is that Boston Children’s Hospital and Fractured FX is planning to sell the simulators to other medical institutions starting in the coming year.
The Creation of SIM Models
In order to most accurately create SIM models that are closest to a live patient situation, the Fractured FX creators studied CT scans of the human body and consulted Boston Children’s Hospital surgeons.
The creation team paid special attention to the replication of membranes, cartilage and other important and palpable landmark within the body. The goal was to make this a life-like and realistic model.
The simulated pulsing of membranes in the brain, when using the SIM model, creates a realistic situation in which to practice surgical procedures.
The Simulator Models
There are a couple of SIM models available, so far. One is a Caucasian tween, complete with a freckly face, and the other is a life-like model of a newborn.
The tween model is currently used by neurosurgeons to practice intricate brain surgery techniques. Surgeons practice specialized lung and heart surgery utilizing the newborn SIM model.
The SIM model parts are 3-D printed and snap together like LEGO bricks. They can be used or operated on several times. And are then replaced within the SIM body model.
The SIM model program is apart of a larger program called SimPEDS, which has been developing teaching tools for training MDs at Boston Children’s Hospital for the past 12 years.
The program also has a 3-D printing unit that makes scaled replicas of organs for learning and teaching.
The Simulator Program has a sizable staff of 18 full-time employees. Every year, about 250 different clinicians utilize a variety of SIM models and program software while they engage in about 1,500 simulation events that literally save lives while they hone their techniques and anticipate issues that can present in the live-patient situation.
The next step in the evolving Simulator Program is to include a virtual clinic with areas to simulate operating and recovery rooms. The plan is to have the entire Simulator Program in one space.
Boston Children’s Hospital is leading the way in training residents in perfecting surgery before they perform a procedure on a live patient. There is much to be learned from their research and Simulation Program.