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Virtual reality eye surgery training program begins at Eye and Ear

Virtual reality is commonly used to train aviation pilots, now the Eye and Ear is using state-of-the-art virtual reality simulators to train the next generation of eye surgeons.

The Eyesi Surgical simulators allow ophthalmology trainees to learn highly specialised micro surgery skills in a safe and controlled environment. 

Dr Jacqueline Beltz, ophthalmologist at the Eye and Ear and Director of Training for The Victorian Branch of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology, says the main aims of virtual reality training are to improve patient outcomes, reduce complication rates and improve surgeon skills and confidence.

“Practice is vital to learn any skill and microsurgery is no exception. Virtual reality simulation provides a setting that forgives failure, and allows trainees to develop fine motor skills as well as learn from their errors without causing harm.

“Studies have shown that patient outcomes are improved when trainees have undertaken virtual reality training”.

Virtual reality simulation training will be used alongside traditional training methods including wet and dry labs to increase the breadth of surgical training for young ophthalmologists.

In addition to the specific skills training, the Eyesi software allows the trainer to objectively monitor and track individual progress.

Dr Beltz says “With the data that is collected, we can track each individual trainee’s progress, identifying and addressing any gaps that may require extra practice or additional teaching. We can also compare trainees’ progress both locally and globally, so we can evaluate and improve our training program.”

The first stage of the virtual reality training program will focus on preparing first year trainees for cataract surgery. Future programs will include training for vitreoretinal surgery and complication management.

The Eyesi simulators are used for training at leading eye hospitals and universities globally. The Eye and Ear is the first Victorian hospital to use this technology.

The two simulators were purchased thanks to generous philanthropic support.