Imperial College London

Live simulated surgery at Science Festival show

Live simulated surgery at Science Festival show

Imperial researchers give people the chance to see surgery in action at Cheltenham Science Festival <em> - News</em>

By Laura Gallagher
Friday 11 June 2010

The public are being given the chance to see surgery in action this weekend, thanks to an exhibit at the Cheltenham Science Festival organised by academics from Imperial College London.

From today until Sunday, visitors to the festival will be able to drop by an inflatable simulated operating suite and see a team of anaesthetists, surgeons and nurses carrying out an emergency procedure known as a laparotomy on a highly realistic silicon model.

A laparotomy involves making an incision through the abdominal wall to gain access to the organs and tissues in the abdominal cavity. Laparotomies are frequently performed following trauma situations such as car accidents, stabbings or shootings.

The team carrying out the simulated laparotomy will have to deal with the kinds of distractions and complications that they might encounter during a real-life operation, such as the patient’s heart rate increasing suddenly or the team receiving a telephone call. The portable simulated operating theatre where the team will carry out the procedure has been designed by academics from Imperial's Department of Surgery and Cancer. It is one of many innovations that academics from this group have developed in order to enhance training for nurses, doctors and surgeons. Through such innovations they aim to improve the quality and safety of patient care.

Simulated operating theatres are commonly found in training hospitals for use by junior doctors. However, Imperial's simulated operating theatre can be easily transported and is relatively cheap, unlike the multi-million pound variations found in hospitals.

It has been created to be as realistic as possible, whilst being portable. It contains kit such as a special lightweight operating lamp, special audio effects and an image of an anaesthetic machine, to provide the authentic sights and sounds of a real operating theatre.

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All the equipment that makes up the operating theatre can be flat packed to fit in the boot of a car. The main structure takes only three minutes to fully inflate. The team that developed it hope that it will prove particularly useful for training doctors, nurses and surgeons in low-income countries.

Dr Roger Kneebone, who helped to develop the operating theatre and who is taking part in the simulations at the Science Festival, said: "The Festival gives us a really exciting opportunity to demystify surgery and provide people who would never otherwise see the inside of an operating theatre with the chance to see what it’s really like. We hope it will encourage children and the public to be interested in medicine.

"Amazing, I loved the fake operation with all the blood. It taught me a lot about being a doctor and I'm going to be one, one day."

– Visitor Benjamin, 11, on his experience of the Imperial exhibit

"The portable operating suite means simulation can be carried out in local settings where it's most needed - teams don’t need to travel elsewhere to do simulated training. This kind of training allows surgical teams to experience what it means to operate on a seriously wounded patient and get valuable practice, without any real danger."

Dr Kneebone discusses the inflatable operating theatre in more detail in the video above (filmed at the NHS Expo in 2009)

In addition to watching live simulated emergency procedures, visitors to the Cheltenham Science Festival will also be able to try their own hand at surgery. Visitors will have the chance to remove a simulated fatty lump under the skin, known as a lipoma. The Imperial team will provide expert guidance to visitors on how to carry out the procedure and how to use the surgical instruments.

The exhibit is part of the LabOratory at the Cheltenham Science Festival, a three-year project funded by the Wellcome Trust. The inflatable simulated operating suite is also funded by the London Deanery STeLI.

Further information on this exhibit and the Cheltenham Science Festival can be found at:


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