Surgery is being revolutionized right here in Kentucky. Operations involving large incisions and long recovery times are being replaced with minimally invasive surgical procedures that require tiny openings, leaving only small scars, and hospital stays as short as a few hours.
The University of Kentucky’s Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery is helping lead the revolution. For example, Clive Robinson, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon and associate professor of surgery at the UK College of Medicine, performed one of the world’s first minimally invasive heart bypass operations in 1995.
But the Center does more than minimally invasive surgery. Physicians and researchers at the Center also train surgeons, nurses, and medical students and develop new techniques and tools.
Minimally invasive, or “keyhole,” surgery uses a laparoscope, a lighted tube with a magnifying camera, inserted through small incisions. Images from the laparoscope are shown on a video screen in the operating room. Watching their progress on the video, surgeons operate using special instruments inserted through additional small incisions.
Minimally invasive surgery now accounts for a significant share of all operations, from gall bladder surgery (the most common) to heart bypasses.
The state-of-the-art training laboratory features laparoscopic skills, virtual reality, and virtual-touch training stations that reproduce actual operating room conditions.
The laparoscopic skills training station allows students to master the difficulties of interpreting three-dimensional visual cues from a two-dimensional display.
Without the sense of touch, virtual reality training is limited. So researchers at the Center have developed a haptic feedback system (a system that provides tactile sensory feedback to someone interacting in a virtual world) to develop a virtual-touch training station. With this device, users can sense different consistencies, surfaces, and shapes.
“Eventually, we will have practice runs of surgeries,” says Christopher Kwolek, M.D., director of the endovascular surgery program at the UK Chandler Medical Center. “We will be able to take scans showing us a patient’s particular situation, put that information into the virtual reality program, and then practice the surgery for that patient in a computer simulation before we ever bring the patient into the operating room.”
The Center also provides trainees with access to a video library of surgical procedures. Interactive video technology is also used to beam endoscopic surgeries performed at UK Hospital to sites around the world for training and international conferences.
“As a result of the UK Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery, students and surgeons in Kentucky have access to state-of-the-art training in minimally invasive techniques,” says Adrian Park, M.D., director of the Center and associate professor, Department of Surgery, UK College of Medicine. “Kentuckians also benefit because they are in a unique situation in the country, with access to the latest in minimally invasive therapy.”