surgery

People with a rare eye disease known as retinitis pigmentosa (RP) suffer a gradual loss of vision; some become completely blind. Now, an innovative new approach to treatment has given dozens of people the chance to see again. With the help of a retinal implant, special glasses and intensive training, people who were blind have a new way of viewing the world which could one day benefit people with other degenerative eye diseases. We spoke to Professor Marie-Noelle Delyfer, University Hospital of Bordeaux, who has already performed eight such operations. What is retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and what is the prognosis for patients? RP is actually around 300 distinct genetic disorders that lead to the loss of photoreceptors on the retina. Some affected individuals have a reduction in their visual field while others become blind. With such a rare disease, it is difficult to describe a typical patient. Some lose their sight early in life or in early adulthood but there are others who become blind only in their 70s or 80s. Until 20 years ago, there were no treatments at all and the disease was not well understood. The first genetic cause of the disease was identified in 1984 – before that it was thought of as an inflammatory disease. What treatments are available? Some pharmaceutical therapies help to maintain photoreceptors but this only slows the progression of the disease – it’s not a cure. In the longer-term, there is some research on gene therapy targeting the mutations responsible for RP. How can technology help? I have used a new technology, from SecondSight, with eight carefully selected patients living with end-stage RP. These patients have an electrode array implanted in their retina. They wear glasses that are fitted with a camera that ‘sees’ their surrounding environment. This signal is sent...
Gaming and simulations can engage surgeons in ways that traditional medical education does not, says Professor Marlies Schijven who has shown the power of play in improving surgical skills. As a surgeon, game developer and app inventor – among other things – she is also on the cutting edge of using wearable technologies in the operating room and was the first person to live-stream abdominal surgery on YouTube via Google Glass. What is serious gaming? Serious gaming uses the principles of playful technology and the power of play to get an educational message across without people feeling as though they are being taught. The key is to wrap educational content into the game, in such a way that it is not perceived as ‘homework’. How can gaming and simulations help surgeons? This approach can be used to train anyone - but it has great potential in teaching surgical skills. It is very important to have game designers involved in developing the games otherwise it will just become another boring e-learning module or tedious task. I have shown that, compared to traditional training methods, well-designed simulations and games actually make for better, more competent surgeons. How did you become interested in working with game designers? For me, it was natural. Before I studied medicine, I studied for some time in a design academy so I can pretty much understand the way designers think and I value their approach. Good serious games are developed by good designers in collaboration with content experts. You have also been experimenting with wearable devices in the operating theatre. What do these technologies do for surgeons? To give one example, you often need to control computers or other devices whilst performing surgery. If this means typing on a keyboard or touching a mouse, you would have to...