UTMB uses 3-D brain simulator teach neurosurgery students

May 1, 2013 4:57:02 PM PDT
People say, "It's not brain surgery," and you know what they mean. But what happens when it is brain surgery? How do medical schools teach brain surgery? UTMB is using one of the worlds' first 3-D brain simulators to teach neurosurgeons.

In brain surgery, a mistake can mean a disability or death. So how do you teach a neurosurgeon without mistakes? Dr. Jaime Gasco uses a 3-D brain simulator.

UTMB in Galveston has one of five simulators in the United States. It allows you to feel resistance, as if you're really moving the brain and you have operate with tools in both hands. It's much harder than it looks.

Dr. Gasco uses it to teach future neurosurgeons how to remove a tumor. They can learn and make their mistakes here -- not on real patients.

"Here you can train scenarios that are particularly challenging and then decide: If I didn't get it right, why didn't I get it right? And then practice until you get it right," Dr. Gasco said.

Dr. Achal Patel is a resident who is removing a blood clot in a stroke patient.

"Practice makes you better, and with this 3-D simulator, I think you'll become a better neurosurgeon," Dr. Patel said.

In the first two UTMB studies, they found that medical students who were going into neurosurgery were 30 percent to 50 percent more accurate if they trained on the computer brain simulator.

The greatest potential is for complicated brain surgeries, where they can load the patient's scans into the simulator and plan it step by step.

"And we even show the patient how the surgery's going to be conducted. We're not far from being able to do that," Dr. Gasco said.

And it's making brain surgery safer for patients.

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