Robotic-Assisted Surgery Gets Boost from New Training Simulator

Emily Berry, April 2, 2010

Robotic-assisted surgeries can be good for patients and good for the hospital's bottom line, but a hang up for medical staffs is that it's not easy to train surgeons on these systems.

That's where the new Robotic Surgical Simulator, or RoSS, comes in. Designed by researchers from the University at Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI), RoSS uses simulation technology borrowed from the airline industry with the goal of providing a relatively inexpensive and quick training solution for today's surgeons.

RoSS wasn't designed specifically for da Vinci surgical training, one of the most popular systems on the market. Rather, it teaches the techniques employed by all robotic surgical systems.

Credentials committee will have to wait a little while before reviewing the competency data from RoSS-trained surgeons. Orders for the finished RoSS modules are scheduled to be delivered in January 2011.

Although the makers of RoSS came from varied backgrounds, the training problems facing robotics-assisted surgeons were clear to all.

"Robotic-assisted surgery systems are relatively new and right now there's no systematic way of training surgeons for the robot other than going to the animal lab, for instance, or shadowing, where a doctor gets a chance to sit with the experienced surgeon," says Thenkurussi ("Kesh") Kesavadas, PhD, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Buffalo and head of its Virtual Reality Lab.

Even the technique of shadowing another surgeon can have its disadvantages, especially when it comes to training on the popular da Vinci Surgical System.

"The problem right now is it's a $2 million robot, it's in the OR, the administration wants you to do more cases rather than training people, and a lot of surgeons feel intimidated by it," says Khurshid A. Guru, MD, director of the Center for Robotic Surgery and attending surgeon in RPCI's Department of Urology. "You need to have a simulation-based curriculum."

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