New article publication: Identifying Opportunities for Virtual Reality Simulation in Surgical Education

July 1, 2015

A group of engineers, educators and surgeons met back in 2013 at the Carl J. Shapiro Simulation and Skills Center ( Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) in Boston as part of the IDEAS Symposium on Virtual Surgery. The purpose of the meeting was to review the background for simulation technology and to propose guidelines for its use in teaching and credentialing trainees and surgeons in practice. Kitware was invited to provide an open source perspective. I attended the meeting and gave a presentation on how open source accelerates innovation and fosters collaboration among surgical simulation researchers.

A publication on the outcomes of this meeting was recently published in Surgical Innovation, a peer-reviewed bi-monthly journal focusing on minimally invasive surgical techniques, new instruments such as laparoscopes and endoscopes, and new technologies.

Here is a key excerpt from the paper that focuses on open-source software:

“…In addition to the engineering challenges, there are logistic difficulties in creating medical VR simulation; first it is very time consuming, and second, there is a tendency to re-invent the wheel.  Open source software models can provide the best platform for the development of VR medical simulations for the following reasons:

  1. Unlike commercial software, open source software models have no vendor locks.
  2. Since everybody is contributing and updating the code, the quality might actually be much higher than the silo-generated material.
  3. They have the ability to reproduce results by other researchers.
  4. Research labs can focus on individual components or modules without having to rewrite the entire code.
  5. They avoid  payment for a license or to work with just one company in order to improve upon already existing code/product.
  6. They encourage a greater culture of transparency and collaboration 
  7. They allows many more medical and engineering institutes to participate in the process of testing and  validation the code/product…”

The idea that open-source software models can provide the best platform for VR medical simulation development is evident in the role Simulation Open Framework Architecture (SOFA) has played for several years in fostering great research surgical simulation around the world. Other groups are following suit including OpenSurgSimm, an open source surgical simulation platform that is development by SimQuest Solutions Inc with funding support from US Army Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC). With the availability of more and more of these types of open platforms and growing culture of collaboration, it is really an exciting time to be involved in virtual reality simulation research for surgical education.


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