Arthroscopy has already become an irreplacable method in diagnostics. The arthroscope, with optics and light source, and the exploratory probe are inserted into the knee joint through two small incisions underneath the patella. Currently, the skills required for arthroscopy are taught through handson clinical experience. As arthroscopies became a more common procedure even in smaller hospitals, it became obvious that special training was necessary to guarantee qualification of the surgeons. On-the-job training proved to be insufficient.
Therefore, research groups from the Berufsgenossenschaftliche Unfallklinik Frankfurt am Main approached the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics to develop a training system for arthroscopy based on virtual reality (VR) techniques. Two main issues are addressed: the three-dimensional (3-D) reconstruction process and the 3-D interaction. To provide the virtual environment, a realistic representation of the region of interest with all relevant anatomical structures is required. Based on a magnetic resonance image sequence a realistic representation of the knee joint was obtained suitable for computer simulation. Two main components of the VR interface can be distinguished: the 3-D interaction to guide the surgical instruments and the 2-D graphical user interface for visual feedback and control of the session. Moreover, the 3-D interaction has to be realized by means of Virtual Reality techniques providing a simulation of an arthroscope and an intuitive handling of other surgical instruments.
Currently, the main drawback of the developed simulator is the missing of haptic perception, especially of force feedback. In cooperation with the Department of Electro-Mechanical Construction at the Technical University Darmstadt a haptic display is designed and built for the VR arthroscopy training simulator. In parallel we developed a concept for the integration of the haptic display in a configurable way.