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Virtual reality based surgical assistance and training system for long duration space missions.

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1
National Biocomputation Center, 701A Welch Road Suite 1128, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.

Abstract

Access to medical care during long duration space missions is extremely important. Numerous unanticipated medical problems will need to be addressed promptly and efficiently. Although telemedicine provides a convenient tool for remote diagnosis and treatment, it is impractical due to the long delay between data transmission and reception to Earth. While a well-trained surgeon-internist-astronaut would be an essential addition to the crew, the vast number of potential medical problems necessitate instant access to computerized, skill-enhancing and diagnostic tools. A functional prototype of a virtual reality based surgical training and assistance tool was created at our center, using low-power, small, lightweight components that would be easy to transport on a space mission. The system consists of a tracked, head-mounted display, a computer system, and a number of tracked surgical instruments. The software provides a real-time surgical simulation system with integrated monitoring and information retrieval and a voice input/output subsystem. Initial medical content for the system has been created, comprising craniofacial, hand, inner ear, and general anatomy, as well as information on a number of surgical procedures and techniques. One surgical specialty in particular, microsurgery, was provided as a full simulation due to its long training requirements, significant impact on result due to experience, and likelihood for need. However, the system is easily adapted to realistically simulate a large number of other surgical procedures. By providing a general system for surgical simulation and assistance, the astronaut-surgeon can maintain their skills, acquire new specialty skills, and use tools for computer-based surgical planning and assistance to minimize overall crew and mission risk.

PMID:
11317762
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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