20th February 2012, 9:51am
Tomorrow’s technology develops today’s trainee surgeons
Dr Ahmed with the new program for the NHS A new computer system created jointly by computer experts and medical professionals will help to develop the specialist skills of trainee surgeons.

Devised by academics from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science in conjunction with United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT), the software program covers a number of topics. It is being used as a training aid for new doctors and surgeons specialising in orthopaedics (the body's musculoskeletal system) at Lincoln County Hospital.

Dr Amr Ahmed, senior lecturer in the Lincoln School of Computer Science and leader of the Digital Contents Analysis, Production, and Interaction (DCAPI) research group, has collaborated with Professor Mohammad Maqsood, Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon at ULHT, to establish the new training computer system.

The program demonstrates best practice techniques, for example, how surgical techniques used in trauma and orthopaedic surgery are performed. ‘Mastering the Dynamic Hip Screw’ develops hand-eye-brain coordination by simulating surgery to insert screws into a broken hip joint, where it is crucial that the angle of insertion is accurate.

A handheld device, inspired by the technology behind Nintendo’s Wii controller,  is used to simulate the action of the surgical drill. The motion is picked up by a sensor and translated to an on-screen 3D model of the bone and drill, in real time. The program records each action and stores the data, allowing trainees to review their progress over time.

Dr Ahmed said: “This project has been challenging as we have used commercial off the shelf products throughout so that the cost of the system is kept to a minimum, therefore making it viable.

“The feedback we have had from NHS consultants already has been very positive. The system is being refined and developed further to make it more realistic and more accurate. We are confident that it will benefit not only the trainee surgeons using it, but also the patients receiving the surgery and the NHS more widely.

“Seeing your field of expertise have such an impact on another audience is both interesting and rewarding. Collaborating with other organisations is very important to the University. Working with Mr Maqsood, who is known for his innovative work, to apply our research and solve real problems is exactly what we want to do.”

The new computer program was presented to regional consultants at the most recent Evolution of Knee Replacement Surgery Meeting. It was presented to a wider audience at last year’s International Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology conference.

Professor Maqsood said: “Trainees are required to see a number of patients as part of their learning and assist in the operating environment.

“The new software will help strengthen a trainee’s understanding of how to perform an operation and the different methods that can be implemented depending on which operation they are performing. As part of the training process they will operate on a patient under supervision by a senior consultant, but we believe that the extra training aid will help to build their confidence and understanding.

“We are really excited about this new training development, and I am sure it will be embraced by trainee doctors and surgeons for many years to come.”

The new program will be available to trainees from summer 2012.

More details of Dr Ahmed’s work can be found here: http://amrahmed.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/
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