Dr. Joel Arun Sursas Discusses the Application of Virtual Reality-Based Training in Surgical Education

Information and Technology News

Dr. Joel Arun Sursas Discusses the Application of Virtual Reality-Based Training in Surgical Education

Medical education programs
are rapidly integrating simulation-based training. Virtual reality simulators
generate datasets that can later be analyzed with machine learning for training
and educational purposes. Here, Dr.
Joel Arun Sursas
outlines the growing role
of integrated artificial intelligence and virtual reality simulation in
surgical training.

Artificial intelligence
(AI) and machine learning have become vital to effective training in many
fields, especially medical and surgical. The massive databases used by these
systems assist in understanding a wide array of skills and expertise. [2, 3]

The rapid growth in recent
years of medical technology and data management capacities has dramatically
increased the feasibility of advanced surgical procedures and the overall
safety of technology-assisted procedures. AI is becoming more vital in teaching
surgical techniques and assessing performance, especially concerning new
processes and technology. Usually, surgeons have limited training with new
devices provided short-term by manufacturers. [1] As a result, surgeons have
often gone a while since before performing that skill on a patient. As a result
of this “on-the-job training”, skill development and patient outcomes
can suffer. Virtual reality-based training allows surgeons to train when they
are able before performing an actual procedure on a patient. [2, 1]

A recent study conducted by
UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine found that virtual reality training
leads to a performance rating on specific procedures more than twice that of
traditional surgical training. [4] AI and VR are more important in training as
new procedures become more technical. Surgeons are expected to complete certain
numbers of cases to become competent in new procedures. As complexity with new
procedures continues to grow, more surgical residents are finding that they are
not prepared to handle certain procedures on their own. [5] VR training allows
these individuals to become more comfortable and competent with a procedure
before working directly on a patient. Although the expense of full-scale
simulators can be prohibitive and usually does not employ machine learning and
adaptation, modern VR is driven by software and often only involves a headset
and hand controllers.

A recent study with
state-of-the-art algorithms indicates that sufficiently powerful machine
learning tools can differentiate between training participants based on their
skill level and experience. Based on careful examination of the performance of
experienced surgeons, residents, and medical students, training systems can
direct learning exercises based on individual skill, allowing for remedial work
for those who need it and more advanced exercises when appropriate. [4]

Because of the greatly
enhanced training capacities and the unlimited opportunity for individualized,
risk-free surgical training, medical education is sure to become more rooted in
the world of virtual reality in the coming years.

About Dr. Joel Arun Sursas

Dr. Joel Arun Sursas is
a team leader and facilitator with a proven track record and a niche skill-set
developed over the past seven years in his capacity as an established Medical
Doctor and Health Informatician. He is most passionate about Medical
Informatics, working to bridge the gap between doctors and engineers to improve
patient care. His interest in the field emerged when he began working as a
Project Officer for PACES — the Patient Care Enhancement System for Singapore
Armed Forces (SAF). Dr.
has been instrumental in designing and
implementing the largest Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system in Singapore,
spanning 53 medical centers, as well as developing a data analytics platform to
trend epidemiological data.


  1. Harvard
    Business Review, Research: How
    Virtual Reality Can Help Train Surgeons
    , October 16, 2019, Retrieved
    from https://hbr.org/2019/10/research-how-virtual-reality-can-help-train-surgeons
  2. Khor
    WS, Baker B, Amin K, Chan A, Patel K, Wong J., Augmented and virtual reality in surgery-the digital surgical
    environment: applications, limitations and legal pitfalls,
    Ann Transl
    Med. 2016;4(23):454, Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5220044/
  3.  PLOS Journal, The Virtual Operative Assistant: An explainable artificial
    intelligence tool for simulation-based training in surgery and medicine
    February 27, 2020, Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0229596
  4. JAMA,
    Machine Learning Identification of
    Surgical and Operative Factors Associated With Surgical Expertise in
    Virtual Reality Simulation
    , August 2, 2019, Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2740782
  5. Stat
    News, Virtual and augmented reality
    can save lives by improving surgeons’ training
    , August 16, 2019,
    Retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2019/08/16/virtual-reality-improve-surgeon-training/