A virtual operating room to better train surgical staff

A virtual operating room to better train surgical staff

Suddenly, the room transforms into an operating room. All it took was a virtual reality headset that completely covered the eyes. A sanitized room with milky light, occupied by practitioners in blue coats, gloves and masks, surrounding a patient about to undergo an operation, then appears. If this operating room turns out to be fictitious, it is not a video game. At the heart of the medical faculty located a stone’s throw from the Rennes University Hospital (Ille-et-Vilaine), the MediCIS team, made up of doctors and engineers from the Signal and Image Processing Laboratory (LTSI) of the For more than six years, Inserm has been designing virtual reality simulators to better train surgical staff.

At the helm: Pierre Jannin, fervent researcher on the use of science and digital technology in the medical environment. Each year in France, out of six to eight million surgical operations carried out, nearly 1% result in complications, half of which could be avoided. “If we manage surgery better than ten years ago, we can always improve,” assures Pierre Jannin, taking as an example the operations carried out on increasingly smaller lesions or on increasingly small people. older. According to a study published in 2019 in the prestigious journal Harvard Business Review, VR-trained surgeons saw a 230% increase in overall performance by being faster and more precise in surgical procedures compared to their traditionally trained counterparts.

Better than corpses

So, for Pierre Jannin, it all starts with learning. For surgical interns who have more than ten years of study, the teaching of practice is essentially done “on the job”, he explains, on anatomical parts (scientific term for cadavers) or plastic mannequins. In the traditional block, the training is intended to be progressive: the students observe their more experienced colleagues, hold the instruments before moving on to interventions. With virtual reality simulation, skills are acquired more quickly and allow interns to familiarize themselves with the operating room environment to respond to the adage, “never the first time on a patient”.

Prepare for the worst situations

Of the four scenarios already developed by Pierre Jannin’s team – it takes around six months of work to complete one – not all are intended for future surgeons. For three years, a second simulator (composed of a helmet, a screen, cameras and software) has been installed at the Rennes school of operating room nurses (Ibode), staff both present during interventions surgical procedures to prevent infectious risks but also as an “instrumentalist” to assist the surgeon. A task that may seem simple, yet the Ibode must know how to handle nearly 500 different tools.

So from school, students are put straight into the mix. “We place them in a stressful situation to teach them how to better manage pressure,” explains Jeanne Descamps, educational manager. After putting on their headsets, the future nurses arrive in the virtual operating room fifteen minutes late due to traffic jams. Soon – a new version of the simulator is in progress – they will have to learn how to react in the event of a fire in the operating room. Thus, supervisors can observe the good or bad reflexes of future professionals in an almost real situation. “This whole approach makes the flow of work more fluid, ensuring good cohesion between the team,” develops Pierre Jannin.

If the researcher claims to have developed a “product intended for research”, he would like a company to take advantage of this educational tool to make it available to all training courses that need it. Then the inexhaustible man glances towards tall buildings under construction in the distance. This will be the new hospital planned for 2026. “There will be 50 operating rooms,” says Pierre Jannin, who has no shortage of new virtual reality scenarios to train the future occupants of these blocks.

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