Low-cost needle simulator aims to revolutionize medical training

July 5, 2018, Pennsylvania State University
Jason Moore, associate professor of mechanical engineering; David Pepley, a doctoral student studying mechanical engineering; and Yichun 'Leo' Tang, undergraduate student studying mechanical engineering, work with the needle simulator training device. Credit: Erin Cassidy Hendrick

Administering needle-based procedures in anesthesiology, such as epidurals, is a complex and delicate procedure and the current training methods for doctors are costly and fall short in preparing them for every patient and situation they will face.

A new provisional patent from the Penn State College of Engineering plans to change that.

The haptic-force needle-insertion simulator, created by a team of researchers led by Jason Moore, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is a low-cost, hand-held device that simulates the tactic feeling of the instrument passing through several layers of tissue. It also connects to a computer program that can assess the user's performance.

These factors are crucial because the doctor's hands need to produce a steady rate of insertion, which can be challenging.

"There's a buildup of force upon tissue deflection and a sudden release of force upon tissue puncture," Moore said. "This training tool can help surgeons, residents and med students improve their dexterous abilities."

Working in harmony, the tool and program interface will provide real-time feedback on the physician's performance during training. This response is crucial to the device and represents a new efficiency and effectiveness of surgical training.

Currently, the most effective way to train clinicians is to observe other doctors.

"Those of us who teach these procedures find it very difficult to teach the needle, eye and image coordination skills," said Sanjib Adhikary, associate professor of anesthesiology, Penn State Hershey and co-investigator of the project.

Using the simulator, doctors will be better prepared for these procedures.

"It can raise the ability of residents before they begin performing these procedures on patients," Moore said. "It also gives them a very nice way to assess their performance and understand where improvements can be made."

Other training methods, like using mannequins, are more expensive and do not account for the range of body types a doctor would encounter in their patients. This device is able to change its simulation based on these different scenarios, like varying skin thickness and .

"Being unprepared for diverse patient scenarios can increase the probability of complications occurring, and this training will help the doctor's ability to adapt," Moore said.

Eventually, this tool could be adapted to train doctors in other specialties like emergency medicine, radiology and surgery.

"This project has the potential to revolutionize training on surgical procedures," said Scarlett Miller, associate professor of engineering design and industrial engineering, Penn State.

The rest of the team is also confident their device will make an impact, especially as it represents a low-cost method to this common problem.

"We're really excited because the device is slated be relatively low cost, less than $100," Moore said. "I would love to see this widely applied, all the way down to undergraduate pre-med programs. It could be impactful to easily assess this skill and provide meaningful feedback to allow for continuous improvement."

Moore, Adhikary and Miller recently received an ENGINE grant from the College of Engineering to commercialize the product.

"This grant has really accelerated our work," Moore said.

The team hopes to test the device at Penn State Hershey and receive feedback from physicians next fall.

"This project is in its infancy, but we hope it could follow the [central venous catheter] robot we worked on that is now a part of the surgical residency curriculum at Hershey Medical Center," Moore said.

Miller added, "This project not only has the potential for commercial value, but also for helping save human lives."

Explore further: Live tissue vs synthetic tissue training for critical procedures: No difference in performance

Related Stories

Live tissue vs synthetic tissue training for critical procedures: No difference in performance

January 23, 2018
Training on the synthetic training model (STM) or live tissue (LT) model does not result in a difference in subsequent performance for five of the seven critical procedures examined: junctional hemorrhage wound packing, tourniquet, ...

Engineer developing haptic feedback system for med students 

September 6, 2016
This could be the best and most realistic version of "Operation" ever, but a system under development at Rice University to help train doctors is no game.

Simulators like a 3-D video game for surgeons

December 17, 2013
Simulators aren't just for pilots anymore. In complex cases ranging from enlarged prostates to brain tumors, physicians at the University of Minnesota are using virtual-reality simulators more and more to perfect their surgical ...

Recommended for you

Tongue-in-cheek Nobels honor nutritional analysis of cannibalism, roller-coaster kidney stones treatment

September 14, 2018
A nutritional analysis of cannibalism and treating kidney stones on roller-coasters were research projects honored by tongue-in-cheek awards at Harvard University Thursday, designed to make you laugh first, and think later.

Pediatric robot patient offers new level of realism for doctors in training

September 10, 2018
A team of researchers and engineers at Gaumard Scientific has unveiled a new robot that raises the bar on medical training devices. The robot, called HAL, has been made to look like a five-year-old male patient and offers ...

Why men say they've had more lifetime sexual partners than women

July 25, 2018
The disparity between the number of sexual partners reported by men and women can largely be explained by a tendency among men to report extreme numbers of partners, and to estimate rather than count their lifetime total, ...

Censors jump into action as China's latest vaccine scandal ignites

July 22, 2018
Chinese censors on Sunday deleted articles and postings about the vaccine industry as an online outcry over the country's latest vaccine scandal intensified.

Revenge of a forgotten medical 'genius'

June 30, 2018
It's not an uncommon fate for a pioneering scientist: languishing unrecognised in his time before dying in obscurity. But as his 200th birthday approaches, the life-saving work of a Hungarian obstetrician is finally getting ...

Yes, you can put too much chlorine in a pool

June 2, 2018
(HealthDay)—Before you take a dip in the pool this summer, be sure there's not too much chlorine in the water.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.