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Surgeons Can Practice First Operation Before Meeting Patient

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NEW YORK — No one wants to be the first person a new surgeon operates on. New technology provides an alternative.

Dr. Craig Kent is now a veteran surgeon, but he remembers his first one.

"(I was) absolutely nervous because it was a live patient, and I was learning how to operate," he said.

Now, technology is changing the way surgeons learn. Through a surgical simulator of a cardiac catherization lab, doctors practice putting a stent into a blocked or damaged artery. The simulator gives new surgeons a real feel for going inside the patient.

"It really does mimic the real operation in a way where I think the student gains a tremendous amount from the experience," Kent said.

Practice translates into better performance. A small study found new surgeons -- who used the simulator first -- outperformed their counterparts in the operating room.

The technology could be used in all types of surgeries, and not only for students. Eventually, experienced surgeons could practice an operation on a simulator before doing it for real.

"We're not quite there yet, but my expectation is that over the next two or three years, that type of approach is going to become a reality," Kent said.


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