At the Case Western Reserve University, virtual reality simulation tools are making dentists hone their art in a most innovative manner and if M. Cenk Cavusoglu has his way, then this method can also train brain and heart surgeons to perform delicate surgeries in a risk-free manner.
"Simulation is a popular training tool because it reduces the learning time and allows students to learn independently," said Cavusoglu, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Case School of Engineering. He was at the University of California at Berkeley before joining Case and had taken part in projects that developed sophisticated laparoscopic and endoscopic tools in the Robotics and Intelligent Machine Lab. "Laparoscopy requires a different skill set than open surgery," Cavusoglu said. "Surgeons typically view patients from the outside in. When a laparoscopic camera is inserted, they see patients from the inside out. Hand/eye coordination is difficult to master. Practice on a simulator would allow surgeons to perfect their technique with no risk to patients." He is currently working on a prototype robot, that can allow doctors to perform open-heart surgeries on "live" hearts rather than dead ones. This robot could potentially eliminate the need for heart-lung machines. "Traditional coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery has undesirable side effects that range from cognitive loss to increased hospital stays that are believed to be related to artificial heart pumps," Cavusoglu said. "In this project, we believe that if the heart were able to beat freely during surgery, these pumps would not be needed and it is possible that these side effects might be lessened."