Chapel Hill, N.C. — An annual surgery simulation boot camp in Chapel Hill gives physicians a lot of practice on the operating table so that they don't make their first surgical mistakes on a real patient.
Last week at the University of North Carolina's Friday Center for Continuing Education, 39 resident physicians and 30 faculty members from all over the country went through the intensive training in cardiothoracic surgery.
Using real lungs and hearts from hogs, surgeons got a feel for the kinds of operations they'll be doing. The organs were "re-animated" to make them beat and bleed like they would in a live patient.
"This model really gives them the feel and tactile simulation a lot better than the computerized ones," said Dr. Rick Feins, co-director of the boot camp.
UNC resident Dr. Staci Beamer said the experience was invaluable.
"(It's) rare that you get to be able to make something bleed and you're able to fix it," she said. "It also allows you to sort of play around with the tissue more than you would be able to in a person."
In addition to practicing a common lung cancer procedure on the hog lungs, surgeons learned how to sew blood vessels together like they would in a heart bypass operation.
"It helps us refine skills that will be safer when we actually have to take care of real patients," said Dr. Taylor Ripley of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
The National Thoracic Surgical Director Association boot camp at the Friday Center is in its fifth year.