vCath app uses 3D animation to teach neurosurgery

iMedicalApps has a history of highlighting groundbreaking medical apps. From apps that take advantage of augmented reality to those that utilize 3D models to highlight key anatomical structures, iMedicalApps has always been at the forefront of technological advances.

Now, we are pleased to feature another app that highlights the enormous potential of mobile technology to improve medical training.

vCath is an app developed by Bangor University in the UK. It is designed to teach neurosurgical trainees the art of cannulating the lateral ventricles of the brain. Its aim is to guide a neurosurgical trainee through the steps of positioning and inserting a catheter into the brain of a 3D virtual patient. Read on to see just what makes this app so groundbreaking.

Launching vCath brings users to a simple home menu, there are 3 main options of interest, Procedure mode, Practice mode and the User Guide. The user guide is the best place to start as it gives a fairly comprehensive overview of how to manipulate the virtual patient, the history of catheterization, indications, procedural advice, puncture locations etc. This gives a useful general overview of the rationale behind catheterisation as well as details of how to carry it out.

Frustratingly, there is no back button from the user guide meaning the user has to restart the app and also there is no landscape option so text is constantly cut off. These are perhaps the main negatives of the app and do not detract from the main content which is the virtual patient.

The Practice Mode is the next stage where you get to go through all the steps required to correctly catheterise the patient. The model is completely 3D and can be manipulated using a series of touch gestures. Helpfully, there is a semi-transparent mode so that you can see exactly where the ventricular system is located.

There are four steps required which include manipulating the patients head to the correct orientation, choosing the appropriate surface puncture site, choosing the angle of the insertion of the cannula and finally manipulating the depth of the cannula to accurately enter the ventricle. Correct positioning and depth rewards the user with a stream of CSF from the end of the cannula which uncannily slows down to mere drips as the pressure is relieved.

Procedure Mode utilizes the same mechanics but this time there is no semi-transparent method of visualizing the ventricular system. Furthermore, when you correctly catheterise the ventricles, you are given a score with the approximate distance away from the ideal puncture site.

One addition that might improve this is highlighting exactly which neurological structures may be damaged by incorrect catheterisation. Overall, though, this is still a useful tool and the ability to simulate procedures such as this on a mobile device is something to be highly valued.

The premise of the app is simple–to teach neurosurgical trainees the art of catheterisation of the ventricular system. As such, the content of the app is highly specialized and not of use to the majority of physicians.

However, the idea that really excites me is the fact that procedures can be carried out on virtual 3D patients with no risk of harm. Trainees could use apps such as vCath for all kinds of procedures and they could potentially be marketed as individual learning modules.

Price

  • Free

Likes

  • Interactive 3D model with step by step guide to ventricular catheterisation
  • Nice animation touches such as CSF coming from the end of the cannula
  • Great example of 3D simulation and visualisation using mobile technology

Dislikes (Future updates)

  • No landscape mode for user guide means users have to keep scrolling
  • No back button from user guide meaning users have to restart the app
  • More information about the correct approach to avoid delicate neurostructures

Healthcare providers that would benefit from the app

  • Trainee neurosurgeons

Conclusions

  • vCath is a useful app for trainee neurosurgeons who want to practice ventricular catheterisation. Due to the highly specialist subject, it has limited use outside of this specialty; however, what is really interesting is the  idea that procedures can be simulated and carried out using mobile technology.
  • As the hardware becomes more powerful, we will probably see more realistic scenarios and procedures being simulated on mobile devices.

iMedicalApps recommended?

  • Yes (to see the future of procedure simulation)

iTunes Link

Rating: (1 to 5 stars) 4

1. User Interface -4 
2. Multimedia usage- 4

3. Price -5 
 
4. Real world applicability- 2 

Disclaimer:
This post does not establish, nor is it intended to establish, a patient physician relationship with anyone. It does not substitute for professional advice, and does not substitute for an in-person evaluation with your health care provider. It does not provide the definitive statement on the subject addressed. Before using these apps please consult with your own physician or health care provider as to the apps validity and accuracy as this post is not intended to affirm the validity or accuracy of the apps in question. The app(s) mentioned in this post should not be used without discussing the app first with your health care provider.

Author:

Tom Lewis

Editor, iMedicalApps.com

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