04 Nov 2013
Story image

App brings surgery to smart phones

By Rebecca Wood

Anyone, from students and aspiring surgeons to serious gamers, can now use their iPhone to try their hand at surgery using the new Bonedoc app from the University of Otago.

Bonedoc is the brainchild of Dr Phil Blyth, a senior lecturer in eLearning in medicine and a practising emergency medicine doctor. He combined his surgical skills with his coding skills to develop the app in conjunction with Otago Innovation Limited, the University's commercialisation arm.

The app allows the user to step into a virtual operating theatre where they repair a hip fracture. It allows them to realign bones, place a plate and fit screws via an incision, checking their work and getting immediate feedback every step of the way via Bonedoc's x-ray function. Once they have completed the operation their efforts are automatically scored.

Blyth says the inspiration for it started when he was working as an orthopaedic registrar when he would have to learn how to do an operation by first watching and then being guided through the process.

"But a few cases later I would realise that here I am in a lead gown in the middle of the night trying to work out the best way to proceed and thinking why am I learning on this patient? Isn't there a way I can work out what I am doing outside of the operation theatre so that when I am here I know what I am doing and can just do it."

Developing the programming for the app actually helped him work out some surgical issues in terms of drill alignment and other spatial issues.

"When you are operating there are so many other distractions in terms of blood loss, in terms of do you have the right drillbit and the right sized screw? So there are so many distractions, whereas on the game you isolate all those other distractions and say what is actually making the difference in your operation without all those pressures," he says.

"A big part of it is seeing all the steps and practising those steps over and over."

The app has been hooked up to the Apple Game Centre so users can compete for the highest score with friends or even other doctors.

An Android version is being readied for release in 2014, and other operations are also being developed.

The app is available from bonedoc.org or the Apple AppStore.

Recent stories
More stories