A Scottish consortium is set to use augmented reality (AR) software to help train surgeons on hyper-real 3D-printed models of human organs. The software will guide trainee surgeons as they perform “surgery” on the lifelike models and will be used in the UK and less developed areas of the world.

Project partners are working with the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) to deliver the immersive technology, which will remove barriers to training by allowing surgeons to practice vital lifesaving skills at home.   

The consortium includes industry-led Organlike, which has produced the models of organs, along with NHS Highland, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Vivolution, KWWK Ltd, 4c Engineering, and Aseptium.  

Backed by funding from the Innovate UK Sustainable Innovation Fund, they have already distributed 160 kits to the UK and Africa.

Accessible via a smartphone app, augmented reality technology is used to scan physical models of organs made from hyper-realistic aqua gel, designed to mimic the texture of human tissue. This scan generates a digital representation of the organ, which is displayed on the trainee’s phone and provides instructions that feedback when a procedure is successfully completed. Trainees can also film their work for review from experienced surgical trainers.

As well as helping train surgeons in the UK, the technology can help medical professionals in less developed areas of the world where training facilities are scarce or non-existent. Kits have already been delivered to three countries in Africa, with discussions ongoing for other territories around the globe.

The project is particularly valuable in the current climate, removing the need for trainees to rely on classroom cadavers to perfect their skills, a resource that has become scarce during the pandemic.

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