Development of a simulation platform for soft and deformable human tissues

Medical simulation is a rapidly growing field, having a positive impact on how healthcare providers are being trained and evaluated. Over the last ten years, there has been a 15-fold increase in the number of medical simulation centres (1400 worldwide today). Surgical simulation allows training outside the operating room (OR), thereby minimizing patient risk, facilitating adoption of new surgical techniques and assuring efficient OR use, for improved patient care. Current surgical simulators employ first-generation virtual reality (VR) technology involving the manipulation of simplistic anatomical structures with virtual surgical instruments. For surgical specialties requiring high precision and acute perception, such as ENT (ear-nose-throat) virtual simulation requires more realistic representation of both anatomical structures and surgical procedures with a diversity of surgical tools.

In ENT, high precision and acute perception are necessary to avoid damage to cerebral tissues and vital structures thereby minimizing the risk of debilitating conditions and potentially fatal outcomes. VR simulation is widely recognized as a valuable tool for reducing adverse effects from surgery, by allowing for training and rehearsal outside the OR, without consequences for the patient.

In this project, we aim to develop the foundations of a physics-based VR surgical simulation engine focused on the task of soft and deformable tissues resection and removal. Physics-based simulation, such as finite elements, is especially important for high precision and acute perception surgeries such as ENT. The approach provides higher realism for visual and touch simulation of the physical situation, by relying on continuum mechanics fundamentals. The simulation is achieved through real-time resolution of the corresponding mathematical equations.

In the project, we’ll need to develop software that comprises real-time finite element computation integrating tissue biomechanical models and anatomical models derived from patient images. In addition, the simulation software engine should be able to interactively accomplish tasks in surgical scenarios using a variety of surgical tools. Implementation of new surgical tools requires development of scenario data as well as software development in the core engine, both of which are specific to the surgical tool.

The simulation software engine would use finite elements to calculate tool-tissue interactions, currently handling real-time simulation of an operating field of 3 mm resolution and 5,000 finite elements (brain tumour resection on a stand-alone computer). The engine should simulate tissue deformation, removal and bleeding and includes basic tissue manipulation and hyper-elastic tissue deformation models, derived from biomechanical data obtained on animal, human and virtual tissues.

Faculty Supervisor:

Tan Pham





Engineering - mechanical





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