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Research and Development in Virtual Engineering

Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures

Simulation Environment for Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures

Surgery is moving toward becoming less and less invasive and minimally invasive and interventional procedures are increasingly replacing conventional surgical techniques. In the process, entry points are growing smaller and natural orifices and pathways (e.g. blood vessels) are being used. Medical advances are significantly furthering this trend.

Minimally invasive and interventional procedures employ very complex equipment and systems (video endoscopy, endoscopic instruments, catheters, etc.). They consist of both mechanical components and embedded electronic systems and have to guarantee maximum safety and dependability. The use of such methods and systems is contingent on the specific anatomical conditions, which can vary greatly from patient to patient.

Endoscopic surgery with several abdominal entry points is increasingly being supplemented by new procedures such as single port laparoscopy or SPL. An SPL incision measures just a few centimeters. The development of new instruments has essentially made such new entry points possible. SPL is currently being used for some standard procedures. Although the level of surgical difficulty is higher and not all safety risks fully have been identified, the results so far have primarily demonstrated the feasibility of SPL and the benefits for patients. Since technical difficulties and risks increase proportionate to the complexity of the procedure, more complex operation (e.g. splenectomies) are rarely performed by SPL at this time.

The Virtual Engineering Business Unit is working on testing and validating such novel minimally-invasive procedures and instruments in a test environment. This requires the integration of every component (e.g. virtual patient anatomy and simulation models, medical equipment and instruments) relevant for complex surgical scenarios. We are focusing on testing new procedures and instruments in a virtual test environment to optimize their safety and reliability.

Virtual models are an ideal basis for real-time simulation of anatomical structures. Optimized model generation systems are developed especially for complex structures such as blood vessels or vascular systems. One focus is real-time simulation of organs and vascular structures. Various physical simulation models are used and computed in parallel by advanced hardware.

The Virtual Engineering Business Unit work on the development of systems for model generation, model optimization, visualization and physical real-time simulation are intended to facilitate planning and training of complex procedures in virtual test environments in the future.

This work is being completed in cooperation with Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and Dornheim Medical Images GmbH in the medical technology subproject of the joint research project VIERforES  VIERforES (Project Reference Number: 01IM10002A), which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.