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
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
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
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.