This system will provide high-quality training, without animals or mechanical models.

Aportable apparatus is being developed as a means of training surgeons in robot-assisted surgery, including laparoscopic and other forms of minimally invasive surgery. The apparatus can be characterized as a virtual reality system that includes not only a computer and a visual display subsystem, but also an electromechanical subsystem with which a surgeon in training can interact as though interacting with a console of the type used to control a laparoscopic, endoscopic, or other surgical robot.

The use of virtual reality in surgical training was proposed more than a decade ago. Heretofore, training in laparoscopic surgery has involved the use of mechanical models, followed by the use of animals as surgical subjects, and/or supervised participation in surgery on human patients. Unfortunately, the use of mechanical models is time-consuming and does not enable automated measurement of surgical performance. The use of virtual reality in surgical training offers potential for reducing the need for mechanical models, animals, and operating-room equipment while improving the quality of training.

A master/slave robot of the type used in minimally invasive surgery typically includes a surgeon console (the master), which exerts control over three or four robot arms (collectively, the slave) that manipulate the surgical instrument(s). The robotic system transforms the surgeon's hand movements into fine, precise instrument maneuvers in an elegant, intuitive way. To satisfy requirements for clinical use, the mechanical subsystem of the console is rather large and complex.

The design of the present system reflects the following considerations:

  • A console suitable for training could include a modern surgeon's- hand-motion-tracking subsystem similar to that of a surgeon robot console.
  • Because a training console is not subject to the full set of requirements and constraints pertinent to real surgery, a training console could, potentially, be less complex and less expensive, relative to a surgeon robot console.