Lifelike dummies help eye surgeons hone their skills

6 June 2017

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Not long ago, surgeons in developing countries often practised eye operations on oranges, and many progressed from operating on orange rinds straight to live patients.

Medical training tools have advanced in recent years and surgeons can now hone their skills on something far more lifelike.

Meet the Human Eyelid Analogue Device for Surgical Training and Skill Reinforcement in Trachoma, otherwise known as HEADSTART, a brown-eyed silicone mannequin that is helping to revolutionise eye surgery training in developing countries. These realistic dummies, introduced in 2015, enable trainees to practise surgery as they would in real life, cutting into the dummy’s eye muscles and eyelids. This type of surgery is essential to treat trichiasis, an advanced form of trachoma infection that causes the eyelashes to turn inwards and scratch against the eye.

The dummies feature interchangeable eye cartridges with removable eyelids that enable surgeons to check whether their incisions are accurate and their sutures evenly spaced. Originally made by hand, the dummies have become so popular that the eye cartridges are now 3D printed to keep up with demand.

In Butaleja district in eastern Uganda, 13 experienced ophthalmic clinical officers (OCOs) from across the country were recently given the chance to practise on the dummies as part of a five-day training course. It aimed to help surgeons to develop their skills, increasing the quality of trachoma trichiasis operations in the area.  In turn, this will ensure that those who need surgery don’t develop repeat eye infections, as well as helping OCOs to complete operations faster, enabling more patients to receive treatment.

The training session was funded by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust as part of its ongoing work to eliminate trachoma in Uganda by 2019.

Senior surgeon Omoli Adede shows a team of ophthalmic clinical officers how to use the HEADSTART mannequin.

Senior surgeon Omoli Adede shows a team of ophthalmic clinical officers how to use the HEADSTART mannequin.