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Int J Med Robot. 2010 Dec;6(4):431-43. doi: 10.1002/rcs.353. Epub 2010 Sep 27.

GPU-based efficient realistic techniques for bleeding and smoke generation in surgical simulators.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, USA.



In actual surgery, smoke and bleeding due to cauterization processes provide important visual cues to the surgeon, which have been proposed as factors in surgical skill assessment. While several virtual reality (VR)-based surgical simulators have incorporated the effects of bleeding and smoke generation, they are not realistic due to the requirement of real-time performance. To be interactive, visual update must be performed at at least 30 Hz and haptic (touch) information must be refreshed at 1 kHz. Simulation of smoke and bleeding is, therefore, either ignored or simulated using highly simplified techniques, since other computationally intensive processes compete for the available Central Processing Unit (CPU) resources.


In this study we developed a novel low-cost method to generate realistic bleeding and smoke in VR-based surgical simulators, which outsources the computations to the graphical processing unit (GPU), thus freeing up the CPU for other time-critical tasks. This method is independent of the complexity of the organ models in the virtual environment. User studies were performed using 20 subjects to determine the visual quality of the simulations compared to real surgical videos.


The smoke and bleeding simulation were implemented as part of a laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB) simulator. For the bleeding simulation, the original implementation using the shader did not incur noticeable overhead. However, for smoke generation, an input/output (I/O) bottleneck was observed and two different methods were developed to overcome this limitation. Based on our benchmark results, a buffered approach performed better than a pipelined approach and could support up to 15 video streams in real time. Human subject studies showed that the visual realism of the simulations were as good as in real surgery (median rating of 4 on a 5-point Likert scale).


Based on the performance results and subject study, both bleeding and smoke simulations were concluded to be efficient, highly realistic and well suited to VR-based surgical simulators.

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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