Virtual Reality: A New Reality for Orthopedic Surgery

Jonathan G. Schoenecker, MD, PhD


January 18, 2019

Hello. I'm Dr Jonathan Schoenecker, an orthopedic surgeon at Vanderbilt University and the research committee chair for the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA). I'm here at the International Pediatric Orthopedic Symposium where POSNA is showcasing its first virtual reality (VR)-based surgical training module.

We created this innovative approach to surgical training in partnership with Osso VR. VR augments the apprenticeship training model we've relied on for over a century, one that is not keeping up with the pace of medical knowledge and new information. VR training provides on-demand virtual education experiences that are effective, repeatable, and, most important, measurable.

For our first VR training module, we chose to create a virtual training experience for the procedure for slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE).

Screw placement can be challenging for residents and fellows to master in this procedure. The module allows the learner to practice key steps in the procedure.

In this case, they set up the C-arm to obtain fluoroscopic images of SCFE. Then they place a guide wire, measure it, and insert a screw.

The learner is given immediate feedback on the quality of the fluoroscopy and screw placement in this procedure.

This is all practiced in a virtual environment that mimics the atmosphere of performing the procedure in the real operating room.

The trainee can practice this repeatedly and work up the learning curve at his or her own speed.

The module is designed for residents and fellows. However, it can also be used by any surgeon to refresh the skills and steps necessary to effectively treat this condition.

As surgeons, we understand that mastering orthopedic surgery requires a considerable amount of deliberate practice. Surgical skills are not innate. They have to be learned. POSNA has been searching for ways to simulate deliberate practice with near-perfect translational validity.

We were impressed by the success that the Osso VR platform has had with hospitals and orthopedic medical device companies across the country. The momentum that this emerging technology has had is very promising for alleviating training challenges in our industry.

We're excited to be an innovator and are hoping to increase the adoption of this technology. We believe that it not only has the power to produce skilled surgeons, but most important, to create safer clinical practice.

If you haven't had the chance to try a virtual training experience yet, it is worth checking out. The feedback we've received on our module has been fantastic as we roll it out here at IPOS.


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