Simulation-based training to aid artificial heart and lung patients

ICU team participating in simulation training using a customised mannequin at the Alfred Hospital.

A project focused on providing simulation-based training models to trainee doctors aims to reduce the risks of complicated procedures and save patients’ lives.

The therapy in focus is called ECMO, short for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation which involves temporarily replacing the heart and lung of a patient when their functions are severely compromised due to an illness or injury. It requires draining a patient’s blood outside the body into a chamber where it is oxygenated and pumped back to the body via a large tube called a “cannula” that is inserted into major vessels in the body. Proceeding this, the patient is monitored for any adverse effects.

Monash Institute of Medical Engineering PhD student and Project Lead, Rezan Jafary says her research will provide doctors who are unfamiliar with this procedure with the necessary practice to deliver effective outcomes.

“Heart failure is a global pandemic affecting at least 26 million people worldwide and is increasing in prevalence” said Ms Jafary.

“ECMO is a temporary support for patients whose heart and lungs have been severely compromised.

“However, ECMO therapy is associated with various clinical complications that may be unpredictable or caused by preventable errors at commencement. Some may be fatal if not addressed quickly.

“Simulation based education provides an artificial representation of the real world where trainees are able to respond to problems as they would in genuine circumstances. This allows for mistakes to be made and facilitates an environment to learn safely,” said Ms Jafary.

The project is in the midst of constructing an education suite equipped with tissue like materials for doctors to train on cannula insertion, with this currently being used at The Alfred Hospital for cannula insertion training; and a mannequin embedded with tubes containing a blood like fluid circulating within them. The mannequin will be programmed to simulate most of the common complications that could occur, acting as a patient to make simulation training as realistic as possible.

“Trainees can fully immerse themselves in the learning environment and transition from novices to experts. The model will then be validated by both junior and senior doctors to assess its efficiency in improving ECMO training to make ECMO safer and hopefully reduce its risks and save patients’ lives. Afterall, practice makes perfect” said Ms Jafary.

The Monash Institute of Medical Engineering is proud to support this research as part of its PhD Research Support Grants.