More importantly, after the virtual surgery doctors can get a read-out indicating the likely success of the operation. This is a major step forward for prosthetic orthopaedics.
"Right now, many implants fail, but for some of them we've no definite idea about why they fail," says MULTISENSE scientific coordinator Cinzia Zannoni, a researcher at CINECA. "The really unique aspect of MULTISENSE is that it will give an indication of if an implant in a particular patient will fail." Surgeons can then test another implant to determine if that has a better chance of success.
The key to the MULTISENSE system is the Muscular Modelling tool. This is a semi-automatic modelling function that takes data from CT scans to make a virtual reconstruction of an individual patients' muscle tissue.
"We have to customise the system to model the tissue of the individual patient to get an accurate indication of the probable outcome before each virtual surgery," says Zannoni.
It's a very advanced application of virtual reality. Up to now, most medical systems simply replicated specific conditions, like appendicitis, for educational uses. The MULTISENSE system is tailored to specific patients.
The Muscle Modelling system is tied to a haptic, or force-feedback, system. Medical haptics are a vast advance on the feedback system used in the joysticks of games consoles. These devices create the force and resistance of real tissue, so when surgeons make a cut they feel the sensation of real surgery.
Add to that a stereoscopic viewing system and doctors can see, and feel, the surgery during the planning stage.