(Surgical) Social Distancing

Dr. Merrill wearing virtual reality goggles and holding simulator controllers
Dr. Christian Merrill, a fifth-year orthopedic surgery resident, tests the virtual reality surgical simulation equipment that UConn Health is using in its orthopedic residency program staring spring 2020. (Photo provided by Precision OS Technology)

While the world stops to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic, the orthopedic surgery residency program at UConn Health will keep going.

UConn’s Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine is partnering with Canadian firm Precision OS Technology to bring virtual reality capability, allowing residents to continue training remotely.

“This technology couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Dr. Lauren Geaney, residency program director. “We are struggling to balance the safety of all of our residents and patients with our obligation to continue to educate the surgeons we are graduating. Precision OS allows us to bridge that gap with amazing and accurate simulations.”

virtual reality knee surgery
UConn orthopedic surgery residents will have views like this when they use the virtual reality surgical simulation technology the residency program is adding to the curriculum spring 2020. (Image provided by Precision OS Technology)

In a matter of days, residents will be able to use the technology to simulate surgical procedures rather than put their advanced training on hold for the foreseeable future.

Precision OS Technology, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, says its VR platform is intended to provide an operating room experience previously only available by physically being in an operating room.

“I will be starting my fellowship shortly, and now with no elective operative cases, I can feel my technical skills deteriorating without practice,” says Dr. Christian Merrill, who’s in the final year of UConn’s five-year program. “The Precision OS platform is exactly what we need. It is challenging, case-based, and allows me to operate through increasing levels of complexity in virtual reality. It allows us to practice our hand-eye coordination and 3D visual-spatial awareness from anywhere.”

The first VR goggles are arriving this week.

“We have tried many VR providers and we chose Precision OS given the quality of education and the fact that it is clearly made to improve surgeon skill,” Geaney says.