Saturday, June 12, 2010

Virtual Surgery

Dr. Who?

A few weeks ago, my 5th grader sprinted off the bus to tell me that he had performed a hip replacement that day. “Really,” I said, thinking that a new euphemism had been coined for the daily recess football injury. Instead, he burbled excitedly about virtual surgeries they had performed in school that day during computer lab. My interest piqued, I decided to check out the Edheads Web site for myself. The site offers neat online simulations of surgeries and other types of materials.

Aside from its coolness factor, virtual surgery offers a lot of applications both in the classroom and in the real world. Doctors from developed countries are able to operate on patients remotely through tele-surgery, especially in world regions where medical care is lacking. Virtual simulations are routinely used in medical training in the U.S. and elsewhere. For students, such simulations expose them to anatomy, where they can examine the structure of different body parts, such as how joints work, and why the surgery is necessary. They are guided through each surgical procedure, learning along the way about some of the medical instruments used as well as why various actions are taken during surgery. If students want to – pardon the pun – dig a little deeper, the site offers actual photographs of different stages of the surgery. Warning: the surgical photos can be graphic. For some students, of course, the ewww factor ratchets up the fun even more.

In some cases, virtual surgery sites may also present an alternative to the dissection of actual species. Due to either budget constraints or ethical qualms, some schools no longer offer real life dissections in their classes. Throughout the week, be sure to check our Facebook and Twitter pages to view links to various virtual surgery and dissection resources.

Lots of virtual surgery and dissection sites claim to be interactive, but really aren’t. These picks from Edheads allow students to virtually pick up scalpels, make incisions, “cut” through bone, etc. Dynamic learning, rather than passive, makes for a much better educational experience all around. Edheads is a nonprofit organization that creates free educational Web experiences; their interactive online simulations come with detailed teacher guides, printable activities, glossaries, and other supporting materials. Edheads resources are aligned to national and Ohio state standards.

Virtual Hip Replacement
Subjects: Biology, Health
Grade: 7-12
Students get to assume the role of surgeon in this interactive hip replacement virtual surgery. Students “use” virtual medical instruments and tools to replace a bone joint.
All the while, they’re guided by a colleague who talks them through the surgery. Multiple choice quizzes throughout the “surgery” prompt students to use reasoning and critical thinking skills.

Virtual Knee Surgery
Subjects: Biology, Health
Grade: 7-12
Grab your bone saw – it’s time to begin a virtual total knee replacement surgery. While being guided through the surgery, your online colleague poses questions about why you’re doing certain procedures.

Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery
Subjects: Biology, Health
Grade: 7-12
In this virtual surgery, students help an animated doctor perform brain surgery on a patient suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Students help to virtually cut, probe and drill, while being guided .

~Joann's Picks - 6/12/2010~


  1. My students go absolutely wild for edheads. Any chance they get some free time in the lab, edheads is one of the popular sites. It surprises me that so many students choose the virtual surgeries over the more game-type websites. What this shows me is that children are curious about the world around them, including the human body. They want to see how it all works together. Great sites!

  2. It's great to see their curiosity, and how neat that sites like this allow them to see inside the body and what a surgery looks like!


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