Surgeons facing the delicate work of recreating a breast post-mastectomy now have a first-in-Canada training tool: a custom-developed microsurgery training chest simulator that “breathes.”
Simulators recreate all or portions of the human body to allow surgeons-in-training to hone their microsurgery skills. The more realistic the simulator, the better prepared the surgeon will be.
This simulator trains surgeons for a procedure called the DIEP flap, a method of transferring a woman’s own abdominal tissue to reconstruct her breast. This challenging microscope-guided surgery requires connecting an artery and vein – each about the width of a piece of spaghetti – deep within a tiny chest incision. To complicate matters, the location over the lungs and heart is literally a moving target as the patient breathes during the procedure.
“We can challenge and prepare our students by varying the breathing rate, which they find very helpful,” says Agnes Ryzynski, Sunnybrook’s Canadian Simulation Centre manager, who co-developed the simulator with Sunnybrook plastic surgeons Dr. Laura Snell and Dr. Joan Lipa.
“This is by far the most technically difficult, yet safest and best, method of breast reconstruction for patients in the long term,” says Dr. Snell. “By training a new generation of surgeons, the hope is to make it an option for more women.”