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U of I student creation 'PhantomCor' could benefit future surgeons

WCCU - IL Innovations 10/29
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Surgery is a big deal. You want the most experienced doctor working on you, but years before those doctors even get to the operating table, it can be hard for them to get hands-on experience.

A transplant surgeon at the University of Illinois College of Medicine said she's seeing more and more surgical students who "don't have a good feeling about their hands."

New research shows more and more surgeons aren't getting the practice hours they need before surgery and may even lack the hand-eye coordination of previous generations of surgeons.

Also, a 2003 law stated a medical resident could not work more than 80 hours a week. All this leaves many medical students not ready for surgery. However, PhantomCor can change that.

Chris Chong is a team lead for PhantomCor, a project students at the University of Illinois have been working on for four years.

"Currently what we're working on, we're working on making reproducible, 3D-printed liver models and we're also making sure the actual liver models are the same material properties as a real human liver," said Chong. "It's going to be used for surgical practice."

Chong said students he's talked to in the College of Medicine and vet school said they don't currently have realistic, affordable models to practice on. So he and his team are using a 3D printer to make them.

"The models they have now they're too expensive or they're not high detail," Chong said. "We're working on bridging the gap, bringing more detail and also easy to reproduce and also low cost."

PhantomCor is also working on making a feedback system for those who use their models.

"So if someone cuts in to the wrong place, something like blood will come out to say 'Oh we actually made a mistake.'"

Prototypes are still in the works, but Chong hopes PhantomCor will lead to more precise surgeries.

"Eventually in five to 10 years we could have some sort of system set up where if a person wants to practice or give their model to a surgeon in advance, he says, they could send an MRI scan of their liver and we could 3D print it for them."

Chong hopes PhantomCor will have prototypes for students to use by next year.

Right now, only human liver models will be available.

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Other organs and animal organs could be a part of PhantomCor in the future.

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