Visualizer for heart surgery training
3 May 2006
The visualizer enables a consultant to demonstrate, describe and discuss
surgical procedures with a student audience and ensures the heart is
perfectly illuminated so that students can see all the heart detail on
Training heart surgeons is costly and time-consuming; perhaps this is not
surprising given the critical and complex nature of the operations they
perform. There is, however, a technique available that can speed up this
process. Called a wetlab it simulates heart operations of virtually all
types by using pigs' hearts, the most comparable to the human organ, on
which trainee surgeons can practice.
According to Kevin Austin, Director of Kenilworth-based, WetLab Limited,
one of Europe's leading wetlab specialists: “This technique can save the
UK's National Health Service a great deal of the time and money involved in
cardiac surgery without in any way lowering teaching standards. Indeed," he
argues, “it is likely that the quality of surgeons and the techniques they
use are improved."
On behalf of medical supplier, St Jude's Medical, WetLab provide a
complete classroom package for up to 20 people including all the equipment,
the operating tables, and the ethically-sourced animal organs. Each session
consists of a consultant performing the operation watched by students who
then repeat it themselves.
A vital part of the equipment is a visualizer that enables the consultant
doing the training to demonstrate, describe and discuss surgical procedures
such as fitting a heart valve while his actions are simultaneously shown on
a screen to the audience.
"For this, it is crucial that every crevice of the heart and every detail
of the procedure is clearly illuminated," Kevin explains. "The initial
visualizer we used was the weakest part of our package as it created areas
of darkness and, although we increased the lighting, this only produced more
shadowing. But once I saw a demonstration of the WolfVision VZ-27, I
realised our problems were solved."
The VZ-27's reflection-free light system ensures that all of the heart is
perfectly illuminated even deep inside it; no detail is, therefore,
concealed from the audience. In addition the consultant does not have to
worry about adjusting the light or the focus, and is able to concentrate on
the operation and his explanation. With a scanning rate of 20 frames per
second, the VZ-27 clearly shows the movement involved in the surgical
procedures while its high colour resolution ensures the images reveal each
and every detail.
The VZ-27's patented Synchronised Lightfield, through the light projector
inside the unit projecting a lightfield the same size as the pick-up area of
the integral camera, ensures that whatever the consultant sees on the
worksurface is exactly the same as that seen by the audience. Even when
zooming in and out the lightfield and the displayed image change
Another feature that has proved useful is the Picture Memory that allows
snapshots of particularly difficult parts of the operation to be captured
for display and discussion later.
By allowing all participants to have a clear, consistent view of the
operation, the WolfVision visualizer has greatly improved the success of our
wetlabs" says Kevin Austin. "The quality of the images is always impressive
and immediately recognised by hospitals' teaching staff as superior to any
alternative. There is no doubt that it is by far the best for our demanding