Virtual virtuosity

A new horizon is opening up for training the surgeons of tomorrow. This very real revolution is called virtual reality.

The gesture is precise, the organization sharp, the timing timed. Beneath their masks, the actors in this millimetric broom move to the tempo set by the man in white holding the scalpel. A choreography that doesn't suffer from imprecision. Welcome to the operating theatre.

(c)Marc Molina

Every year, thousands of patients pass through the expert hands of our surgeons. Some come from very far away. " French surgeons are recognized the world over, and many of the world's leading surgeons come to France for training," explains Maxime Ros. " This unique know-how needs to be passed on effectively to ensure the next generation of surgeons and to constantly improve the skills of our doctors ," stresses the neurosurgeon from Montpellier.

In the surgeon's skin

To perfect the learning and practice of this precision craft, it is essential to attend multiple operations. Standing next to the surgeon in action, students and colleagues detail the conductor's movements. An essential part of training, but one with its limits. The observer's position is one of them: he or she often only sees the gestures from the side or from a distance, so as not to disturb the surgeon. " Ideally, I'd like to be right at the heart of the operation and be able to observe everything ," says Maxime Ros. The dream solution? Seeing through the surgeon's eyes. A dream come true... virtually.

Maxime Ros's idea is as simple as it is revolutionary. Two cameras are attached directly to the surgeon's head during the operation. From the images thus captured, a 3D film is recreated, which can then be played back on a smartphone coupled with a virtual reality headset. Open your eyes and immerse yourself in an immersive experience. Those hands holding the scalpel are like your own. The team working around the patient, it's as if you were leading them. Need information about the patient asleep on the table? The headset offers these resources too. Turn your head and access all the information you need to carry out the operation: CT scan, MRI, patient data.

A unique teaching experience made possible by the Surgevry application co-developed by Maxime Ros and his associates. " It's an ideal tool for improving the transmission of highly technical know-how, because even if you don't actually make the gesture, your brain records the operation ," explains Maxime Ros.

3D in the service of education

To develop this tool, Maxime Ros and his partner, Jean-Vincent Trivès, founded Revinax, which won the best start-up award at the Laval Virtual 2016 trade show, a benchmark in the field. " A fine accolade from industry specialists ," congratulates Christophe Bonnel. The emergency doctor joined the Revinax adventure after meeting Maxime Ros during a training course in medical pedagogy. This dual expertise gives these enterprising doctors a double legitimacy. " We're well aware of the issues involved in this profession and the importance of training," explains Maxime Ros. " To be a good surgeon, you have to be constantly learning, and see as many operations as possible performed by different professionals, because each one has a specific know-how," adds Christophe Bonnel.

Just as journeymen travel around France to learn from the best craftsmen, Surgevry enables everyone to train with the best surgeons. Thanks to immersive 3D, future surgeons can complete their tour of France - and even the world - of operating theatres, without leaving their classroom... or their hospital. Medical students aren't the only ones who can benefit," explains Maxime Ros. Surgeons working in remote areas, for example, will also be able to continue their training without leaving their patients ". And the idea goes even further... "... Unesco has expressed interest in this technology for training doctors in developing countries ", Maxime Ros enthuses. "Everyone has a smartphone, so it's easier to equip doctors with 3D headsets than to travel to another city or country for training ", adds Christophe Bonnel.

Improving the quality of care

The project's next objective is to produce as many films as possible and create a "surgical youtube". A 3D video library that will enable students and practitioners alike to visualize a wide range of operations. " These films could also be adapted for all those involved in the operating theatre, such as nurses, who also have very specific know-how ", Maxime Ros imagines.

Better-trained caregivers mean better care for patients. " Lack of experience is at the root of some medical errors. Today, they are the third leading cause of death in France," explains Maxime Ros. " Training is a lever for improving the quality of care, and we are counting on it to reduce this risk ," emphasizes Christophe Bonnel.