Medical training via simulation apps

Todd Vandenbark

In a recent post on the iMedicalApps blog, Dr. Satish Mira discusses the iPhone app Virtual Cath Lab. As of today there are 2 versions available, one for free and the other for $2.99. This app is “a c-arm simulator and anatomical viewer designed to teach all medical staff and students hand-to-eye co-ordination skills and anatomical positioning concepts in a radiation free environment.” In addition to describing this app’s functionality and strengths — such as reduced radiation exposure — Dr. Mira puts forward an interesting idea:

Though the actual data seems to be conflicting, one statement I often heard was that my generation and those to come would be better prepared to learn these interventions simply because more of our time was spent playing video games.

Strangely enough, the argument went, many of the same skills to be good at Mario Kart or Call of Duty were important in manipulating laproscopic surgical instruments. In an odd way, what is being said is that visual-spatial thinking, hand-eye coordination, and other similar skills are becoming increasingly critical with minimally invasive interventions that require the operator to convert 2D images on a screen into 3D anatomy – a skill that means the difference between removing a gall bladder properly verse perforating the bowel. Virtual Cath Lab is a free app that is great example of how medical education can use new training modalities to prepare trainees for this shift.

It will be interesting to see if research will eventually support this idea, or if it will remain conflicted.

If you are or have been a medical student and have had to use training simulators that use a 2D image to represent a 3D space, how hard did you find it to make the mental translation?