From Bench to Reality: Development of Simulation, 3D Printing, and Air-Pilot-Training Concept Course for Endoscopic Mitral Valve Surgery
Endoscopic mitral valve repair is one of the most difficult procedures to learn. The learning curve is steep. This steep learning curve has partially to do with the fact that the operation is done with long-shafted instruments, with surgeon looking at the monitor rather than into the wound. Acquiring endoscopic skills with long-shafted instruments is a process that no one can escape from, and acquiring these skills in patients is not logical or efficient.
In 2012, the author wrote a project to develop a high-fidelity minimally invasive mitral valve simulator (MIMVS). Fidelity in simulation has traditionally been defined as 'the degree to which the simulator replicates reality (1). Obviously, a simulation platform should be realistic and mimic the set-up of a procedure. Additional to this and fundamental to learning, is the need for feedback. There is no efficient learning without feedback and it has been shown that if the feedback is given in an objective and reproducible manner the learning process is more efficient (2). Therefore, the aim of the project was to create a platform that was realistic and that it could provide feedback regarding the skills that one would like to develop, a platform that one could use to train oneself objectively and repeatedly in a reproducible manner.
In 2013, a prototype was developed and the author used the prototype to start the endoscopic mitral valve program and used it during the start-up of the program to refine his own skills. Because of the success of the platform, the group received funding from Maastricht University Medical Center in The Netherlands to develop an industrialized platform. An engineering group was assembled to actualize the author’s ideas. This group was able to create a high-fidelity simulator that provides a platform on which endoscopic skills can be trained repeatedly and objectively. Additionally, the simulator provides objective assessment and feedback, which is essential in any simulator-based training. The disposable mitral valve is made of special silicone developed by the author’s group that provides a true suturing experience.
The group was awarded the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery’s (EACTS) Techno-College Innovation Award in 2014, and a video on the innovation was published on CTSNet in 2014 (3). In this video, the author envisioned using this platform to train surgeons and also to use it for preoperative planning, applying the 3D technology. Ever since, the group has tried to bring this innovation and these visions from bench to reality. They recently published the process of the development of this simulator in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery to stimulate development in this field. Ninety-nine senior surgeons during various educational programs validated the platform for training of minimally invasive mitral valve surgery (4).
Additionally, the group developed a process for modeling and three-dimensional (3D) printing of different mitral valve diseases for procedural planning and simulation based on 3D transesophageal echocardiography (TEE), and published these results recently in the European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery. Disposable, 3D-printed, pathological, silicone replica valves can be mounted into the simulator so that one can also be trained in any repair technique on any pathology of the mitral valve (5). Another publication also provided the proof of concept for the use of 3D printing and simulation for planning procedures in prospective patients (6).
In 2015, the EACTS Endoscopic Port-Access Mitral Valve Repair Drylab Training was founded using the high-fidelity simulators. This course has been organized 15 times in Maastricht. The course was designed based on the latest educational science and is structured like an air-pilot-training concept course, starting with technical and theoretical pre-assessment and two subsequent days of intensive training on simulators, mixed with interactive presentations and videos regarding all aspects of the endoscopic mitral repair program. The course ends with technical and theoretical post-assessment.
Learn more: https://www.ctsnet.org/article/bench-reality-development-simulation-3d-printing-and-air-pilot-training-concept-course