New system allows surgeons to train before operating

When it comes to many types of surgery inside the human body, the room for error is quite small. Because of this, a lot of money is poured into research to help make doctors better prepared when they are working within a patient.

A new process has been developed that allows 3D scans of a patient's liver to be made prior to a surgery. These 3D scans allow the surgeon to see the actual anatomy of the patient's liver rather than hoping the anatomy matches what was described by Couinaud in 1957. Couinaud's description is the classical anatomy of the human liver. However, 3D modeling has shown that as much as 50% of the human population has a different liver anatomy than what the classical description would lead a surgeon to believe.

Project Odysseus was developed to form a 3D image of a person's liver and the vasculature of the liver to allow surgeons to train before a surgery. The modeling also allows the surgeon to see how the liver is segmented.

Professor Luc Soler of the Institut de Recherche pour les Cancers de l’Appareil Digestif (IRCAD) said, "Thanks to the 3D modeling. The future of liver surgery has gained more precision through accurate definition of the liver’s blood vessels."

The project also resulted in other technologies separate from the 3D imaging. The project also developed a system that allowed the surgeons to get input from other specialists in remote locations and a virtual surgery tool that mimics the texture and resistance surgeons encounter during surgery.

The software developed for the project is Virtual patient modeling that enables a patient specific pre-operative assessment and Virtual Planning software that allows navigation and tool positioning to be done in 3D on any multimedia computer. France Telecom also developed a communication system for the project called Argonaute. This is the software that allows doctors and specialists in several locations to advise on images at the same time. The simulated surgery gear is called the unlimited laparoscopic simulator (ULIS) and the robotic surgery simulator (SEP Robot) is the part of the project that adds the physical properties of texture and tissue resistance to the virtual surgery.

According to Soler, "In the future this will reduce secondary tumours in the liver, and it will reduce the segments we have to remove. In the end it will save more patients."

The different products that were developed during project Odysseus are creating new jobs already according to the developers and once trials are complete and production is underway even more jobs will be created. The technology is expected to make a significant contribution to improved care and treatment of cancer of the liver and its diagnosis.

Soler said, "Everyone says it is vital to use this system, but we have to wait five years after surgery to prove the benefit of the software on survival rates. So it is too soon to see all the benefits yet."

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