The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) and The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine (OSU) are designing a groundbreaking virtual surgical training program using software and hardware developed at OSC. The study, officially called “Simulation Technology in Veterinary Education: Research and Surgical Training,” began in January 2007 and will last for about eight months.
The study, funded by a $39,000 grant from the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation (ARDF), will develop new ways for OSU veterinary students to learn about small animal anatomy including bones, organs, vascular systems, and soft tissue density using computerized haptic simulation technology developed at OSC.
Principle investigators of the study are Dr. Mary McLoughlin, OSU Associate Professor of Veterinary Medicine, and Don Stredney, an OSC Biomedical Research Scientist and Director of OSC’s Interface Laboratory. Stredney developed the haptic interface device, which applies force, vibration and motion to the user.
Stredney said the successful development of this technology in the medical field has led to dozens of national and international institutions expressing interest in becoming involved in future studies. He expects veterinary surgeons from around the country to monitor the project as it progresses.
Because students will be trained in surgical techniques using computer hardware and software that simulate a number of small animal types, the veterinary medicine program will significantly reduce the need for animal live animals and cadavers previously used for most surgical training courses.
”The study will use existing hardware and software for training medical students, and make adjustments and refinements based on the feedback and experiences of the students in the program,” Stredney said. “Because the software is being developed under funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is open-source and can be freely disseminated.“
The program has several key components that Stredney and McLoughlin said make this study one of the most unique and groundbreaking among veterinary schools across the country. It reduces the number of animals needed to train vet students, explores new methods for teaching surgical techniques using newly developed computer simulation technologies, provides longer surgical training time for students, and creates a more humane way to teach veterinary surgical techniques.
Surgeons from OSU’s Veterinary College first came to OSC in 2005 to experience the 3D reconstruction volumetric display of anatomical data and the haptic device in OSC’s Interface Lab. Under Stredney’s leadership, OSC researchers have developed a seamless multi-modal environment for simulating temporal bone dissection. They use a volumetric approach to render the structural model of the temporal bone acquired from CT and MRI imaging. Because of recent developments in commodity computing hardware, a more cost-effective, realistic and robust system is emerging.
These factors allowed OSC to integrate anatomical variance more directly than surface-based approaches. Preliminary trials demonstrated a level of sophistication for the system to be useful in resident training as an adjuvant to traditional temporal bone dissection using cadaver specimens.
Sucheta Bhatawadekar, a Master’s student at OSU’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD), and Jared Coliadis, an OSU senior majoring in computer information science and engineering, will assist the project by helping develop the new computer coding. They will turn MRI and CT images of small animals, such as dogs and cats, into realistic volumetric simulations that can be haptically sensed, turned, rotated, drilled and cut into, and manipulated in various ways.
“I’ll reprogram our existing software and turn these new images into 3D volumes that we can look at, look into, turn around and upside down, and rotate using either a mouse or haptic device,” Coliadis said “We’ll develop new haptic tools that will allow the vet students to cut and sew and pull things open. All of this will be based on what they tell us they need as we move through this study and they gain experience using these new tools.”
Coliadis said the team will develop new simulations of bones and organs that can be segmented into different parts, given labels, and colored in different ways. They’re creating a new tool so that an animal anatomy expert can easily color these segmented parts, allowing them to be studied and identified as part of student anatomy training.
A tool for registering datasets will also be developed to help students learn to scan and read scans correctly.
The project will utilize a custom-built Intel Core Duo PC with four gigabytes (GB) of RAM and an nVidia GeForce 8800 graphics card. Images will be loaded on a server at the Veterinary College. Stredney also said they plan to develop some components that can run on less powerful computers so students can download the images to study on their home computers.