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Virtual Surgery

January 10, 2008

Digitally simulated patients may take some of the guesswork out of surgery.


Surgery’s digital doubles. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Major surgery doesn’t leave much room for do-overs. But in the future, a surgeon may practice on a 3-D, digital version of you before you go under the knife. UCLA mathematician Joseph Teran is among the scientists developing the technology. He’s writing algorithms that could help create virtual patients from ultra-high-resolution body scans.

JOSEPH TERAN (University of California, Los Angeles):
You go in, you get scanned, the surgeon, the doctor, looks at the virtual version of you, to look at your internal geometry, and then go in and dissect your virtual geometry and look closely at what’s in there.

While this scenario is a long way off, Teran’s also working on small-scale simulations that could be done with today’s technology. For example, a virtual model of a patient’s skin tumor may help a surgeon figure out the best way to remove it. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.