Researchers from a European project to develop a virtual model of the human lower musculoskeletal system have unveiled some of the capabilities already created that can help surgeons plan for complicated orthopedic procedures. Under the leadership of the University of Twente, the TLEMsafe (Twente Lower Extremity Model) virtual reality system renders individual functional models of legs using patients’ own MRI scans. Surgeons can then try out procedures on these virtual models to see what the appropriate course of action should be.
MRI scans are used to personalize the model, creating a unique model for each specific patient. By using these personalized models in a Virtual Reality environment, surgeons are better able to plan surgical procedures in advance. The system can autonomously select the optimum site for muscle connection. It can also predict the consequences of specific choices. If so required, surgeons can even simulate entire operations in advance using a Virtual Reality environment.
The computer model is linked to an automated navigation system that is used during surgery. This ensures that the site selected by the system as the optimal location for muscle attachment can actually be used in the patient in question. The researchers compare this system to a satnav system. The system shows the surgeon exactly how certain muscles should be relocated in order to optimize the patient’s musculoskeletal system.
According to Prof. Nico Verdonschot and Prof. Bart Koopman, who are both members of the research team, the strength of the underlying musculoskeletal model lies in its accuracy, which is approximately five times greater than that of existing models. Uniquely, the system is based on a single, consistent dataset. This means that the body of a single individual is used as a basis (while existing models are composed of parts of different bodies). The fine detail of this individual’s muscles, bones, tendons and attachments is mapped and digitized. As stated, the model is based on a consistent data set. However, an MRI scan is used to personalize the model for each patient, creating a model that is unique to the individual in question.
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