Recent advancements in medical simulation: patient-specific virtual reality simulation

World J Surg. 2012 Jul;36(7):1703-12. doi: 10.1007/s00268-012-1489-0.


Background: Patient-specific virtual reality simulation (PSVR) is a new technological advancement that allows practice of upcoming real operations and complements the established role of VR simulation as a generic training tool. This review describes current developments in PSVR and draws parallels with other high-stake industries, such as aviation, military, and sports.

Methods: A review of the literature was performed using PubMed and Internet search engines to retrieve data relevant to PSVR in medicine. All reports pertaining to PSVR were included. Reports on simulators that did not incorporate a haptic interface device were excluded from the review.

Results: Fifteen reports described 12 simulators that enabled PSVR. Medical procedures in the field of laparoscopy, vascular surgery, orthopedics, neurosurgery, and plastic surgery were included. In all cases, source data was two-dimensional CT or MRI data. Face validity was most commonly reported. Only one (vascular) simulator had undergone face, content, and construct validity. Of the 12 simulators, 1 is commercialized and 11 are prototypes. Five simulators have been used in conjunction with real patient procedures.

Conclusions: PSVR is a promising technological advance within medicine. The majority of simulators are still in the prototype phase. As further developments unfold, the validity of PSVR will have to be examined much like generic VR simulation for training purposes. Nonetheless, similar to the aviation, military, and sport industries, operative performance and patient safety may be enhanced by the application of this novel technology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction*
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • General Surgery / education
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel / education