2008 Dr. Frank H. Netter Award Recipient:
The Virtual Temporal Bone Dissection Project
Ohio State University, Ohio Supercomputer Center, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital

The Virtual Temporal Bone Project is a collaboration among physicians and researchers that uses a real-time, interactive system to train surgeons on difficult and delicate surgical techniques involving the temporal bone in the skull. This type of training on a computer simulator is a natural fit for a generation of surgeons who grew up playing computer games.

The Virtual Temporal Bone Project can do everything from mimic the complex interaction between the surgeon and the drill, to provide insight into the location of critical structures within the temporal bone. A joystick is used to convey the same resistance that a drill encounters in real bone. Unlike typical training methods on cadavers, virtual patients can bleed, which requires students to think on their feet in life-like demonstrations.

“With this type of training, surgeons are not only learning with their eyes, but also with their sense of touch,” says Gregory Wiet, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology and biomedical informatics at The Ohio State University. “This is an important tool in the learning process in which surgeons need to know how to use their senses in order to guide their surgery.”

The Virtual Temporal Bone Project was selected for the Netter Award because of its outstanding level of sophistication and nuance in the visuals as well as its unparalleled interaction between the visual effects and the haptics. In addition, the product is readily accessible because it uses off-the shelf hardware that can run on an ordinary PC.