Performing spinal and epidural injections is a craft perfected with experience, and subject to serious consequences, if mistakes are made. As in many other procedures practicing on live humans is understandably impossible, so researchers from the University of Limerick in Ireland used haptic technology and 3D visualization to create a training tool. Considering the millions of epidurals performed each year, the technology should prepare young physicians to perform them without hesitation.
The BBC reports:
The “haptic simulator” recreates the skin tension felt by the practitioner at the point the needle is inserted.
If the injection is not carried out correctly, the trainee receives immediate audio and visual feedback.
The developers questioned doctors extensively about the precise tactile responses involved in inserting a needle between two vertebrae of the human back.
The result is an advance that incorporates visual feedback – allowing the operator to view a 3-D map of the area while simultaneously positioning the needle.
Trainees can operate in either “trial” or “practise” mode, and safely locate the optimal point for a spinal injection – called the “intrathecal space”.
In trial mode, the audio and visual clues can be turned off.
Correct placement of the needle is registered by the sight of fluid draining from the needle, which is what happens during the real procedure.