The Alexandra Institute // Cases // Ear surgery simulator

Ear surgery simulator


Ear surgery simulator

Welcome to the future of 3D simulation surgery

Using advanced 3D graphics and a force feedback pen, we have developed a super realistic simulation of temporal bone surgery in collaboration with Clinical Professor Mads Sølvsten Sørensen.

The ear simulator project is a collaboration between the Alexandra Institute and Copenhagen University Hospital. The objective is to develop a realistic surgical simulator using advanced 3D graphics and a force feedback pen that makes it possible to simulate temporal bone drilling.

The background for developing this type of simulator is that drilling procedures in the head are associated with many risks. The surgeon may e.g. injure the facial nerve with the drill and cause a permanent facial nerve paralysis. So there is a clear need for developing new and alternative training methods for surgeons at all experience levels. With a computer simulator the surgeon can trial-and-error his/her way through a simulated operation without major human or economic consequences.

In addition, the project aims at developing a product that is cheap to acquire to ensure successful market penetration – also in countries that do not usually have the money to buy expensive simulation equipment.

A beta version has been developed and can be downloaded for free on the project website. The user interface is in English, but it has also been translated into Chinese and is being launched in German, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese and Greek.

Using advanced 3D graphics and a force feedback pen, we have created a super realistic simulation of temporal bone surgery. The Visible Ear Simulator (VES) gives ear surgeons the opportunity to practice complicated operations in the temporal bone - again and again. As surgeons often make vital decisions based on the visual impression, VES can correctly reproduce shape, colour and transparency of the various anatomical parts of the inner ear.

In addition, we have focused on simulating the tactile drilling experience - the feel of the drill's interaction with the bone and to reproduce sensations of drilling into bone, cartilage or soft tissue. VES has been developed by the Alexandra Institute in collaboration with Mads Sølvsten Sørensen, Clinical Professor at Copenhagen University Hospital. VES is being used by leading ear surgeons worldwide.

Mads Sølvsten Sørensen, Clinical Professor at Copenhagen University Hospital, conceived the idea behind the simulator. He has many years’ experience of performing this type of surgical procedure and is one of Denmark’s leading experts in the field.

500 colour images

To develop a realistic simulator, it is important to be able to display true colours as the surgeon often makes vital decisions based on the visual impression. Mads and his team have therefore produced “The visible ear” data set, which is unique both with regard to resolution and quality. The data set consists of more than 500 colour images obtained by a method called cryosectioning. With this method, a segment (in this case the head of a deceased woman) is frozen and then cut into very thin slices, each of which are digitally photographed.

Advanced algorithms

To use this massive data set for real-time visualisation, it has been necessary to develop advanced volume rendering algorithms that can generate an accurate representation of different anatomic elements with regard to shape, colour and transparency. In addition, focus has been on reproducing a realistic sensation of the drill’s interaction with the bone as the tactile drilling experience is very important for the success of the simulator.

In this project we collaborate with Copenhagen University Hospital.

VES is developed with support from the Oticon Foundation, Oticon Medical and MED-EL.

Surgical simulator trains ear surgeons in difficult operations.

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