Microsurgery clipping is one of the most challenging surgical interventions in neurosurgery. The opportunities to train residents are scarce, but the need for accumulating practice is mandatory. New simulating tools are needed for skill learning.
The design, implementation, and assessment of a new hybrid aneurysm clipping simulator are presented. It consists of an ergonomic workstation with a patient head mannequin and a physics-based virtual reality simulation with bimanual haptic feedback. The simulator recreates scenarios of microsurgery from the patient fixation and the exploration of the brain lobes through Sylvian fissure and vascular structures to the aneurysm clipping. Skill metrics were introduced, including monitoring of gestures movements, exerted forces, tissue displacements, and precision in clipping.
Two experimental conditions were tested: (1) simple clipping without brain tissue exploration and (2) clipping the aneurysm with brain Sylvian fissure exploration. Differences in the bimanual gestures were observed between both conditions. The quantitative measurements of tissue displacement of the brain lobes exhibited more tissue retrieval for the surgical gestures of neurosurgeons. Appraisal with questionnaires showed positive scores by neurosurgeons in all items evaluating the usability and realism of the simulator.
The simulator was well accepted and feasible for training purposes. The analysis of the interactions with virtual tissues offers information to establish differential and common patterns between tested groups and thus useful metrics for skill evaluation of practitioners. Future work can lead to other tasks during the intervention and the inclusion of more clinical cases.