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PANORAMA: 1997

Practice Makes Perfect with Life-Like Models
by Liz Clark, LPS Staff Correspondent

SCULPTORS and clinical specialists have teamed up in the United Kingdom to design and make models that could revolutionise surgical education and training. And the results are unique soft-tissue simulators that allow a range of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to be thoroughly and realistically practised without using any living creatures.

Life-size, with the look, feel and colour of real tissue, there are models for various medical disciplines.

For example the face allows students to recognise and learn about treatments for a wide variety of skin lesions, including basal cell carcinomas, malignant melanomas, cysts and warts. A number of procedures, including the removal of some lesions and the planning of incisions, can be performed on the model, that has a soft muscular structure and eyes.

Among the models for use in minor surgery workshops are ingrowing toe-nails that closely mimic inflamed toes and allow a range of procedures to be undertaken. There is also a model of a varicose-vein leg and an intramuscular pad on which students can practise giving injections.

The company, called Limbs and Things, was established in 1990 by medical artist Margot Cooper, who is a world leader in the design and production of models and simulators for medical education and training.

Products made by the company based in Bristol, western England, are now being used all over the world. They include many organs and areas of the body that can become affected by conditions and diseases, including the pelvis, abdomen and chest.

The company's first model of a heart was developed especially for two leading British specialists and was presented at the Cardiac Surgery Conference at London's Heart and Lung Institute last year. The objectives of the model were to demonstrate a certain heart condition, atrial septal defect, to allow a patch to be stitched on to the defect and removed, so the model could be re-used. Further prototypes are now being developed incorporating other pathological features.

All the company's models result from close collaboration with doctors and surgeons during the evaluation stages of development. It is a tried and tested method as it has been proved that evolution through several levels of prototype often leads to conclusions that would not have been envisaged at the beginning of a project.

  

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