Synthetic Wounds


By Kathy Allen

Military medical personnel are being prepared for war in a more realistic way than ever before. The Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC) has developed a kit containing 76 wounds that can be applied to a person so it appears as if they've been injured. The goal of the wounds is to help medical personnel overcome the shock from trauma. The wounds come in a variety of types, including lacerations, shrapnel wounds, exit wounds and entrance wounds. They also range in size for different weapons, such as a 9 mm, 45 mm or AK-47. The wounds are designed to mimic actual injuries a soldier may sustain in battle. "The shrapnel wound would be something typically from a bomb," Angela Salva, director of operations at VRMC's Orlando office, explained to Ivanhoe. "The lacerations could be from shrapnel flying around, most likely, or if they're involved in any kind of direct combat with someone where they're attacked." The kit also contains two viles of scents -- burned flesh and gunshot wound -- to help make the experience even more realistic.

The wounds are fashioned from silicon, which more closely mimics natural tissue. Unlike when coroner's wax is used for training scenarios, silicon has memory like natural skin, can withstand extreme temperatures and can also be reused. According to Salva, once applied, the wounds can be worn for a full day -- up to nine hours -- and still maintain the same appearance as when they were first applied. The new technology also cuts down the amount of time the wounds can be applied in -- five minutes vs. an hour.

VRMC has paired with the Army to develop and implement the kit in medical facilities. The Army has awarded about $2 million in contracts to VRMC and its partner TeKontrol Inc. The kits are currently in the prototype testing stage. They are being tested at different military sites throughout the country with the focus on training medical personnel for combat readiness. VRMC is currently working to develop their next generation of wounds, which Salva says are much larger, representing arterial and venous injuries. These wounds can actually bleed, as controlled by the actor wearing them.

ENTERING THE CIVIL SECTOR: The kits will not only be used by the military; hospitals and medical schools are incorporating them into their training programs as well. University of Central Florida's recently-established College of Medicine is planning to expose their students to virtual wound scenarios. "Rather than waiting for these types of very critical accidents to occur for our students to learn how to cope with them, we can mock up through the make-up and through artificial wounds, the type of scenario they would have to deal with," Lynn Crespo, Ph.D., assistant dean for undergraduate medical education at UCF, in Orlando, Fla., told Ivanhoe. Dr. Crespo sees this new training as a wave of the medical future. "Rather than the old way of practicing medicine -- see one, do one, teach one -- with the whole infusion of simulation and all these other wounds and modalities we have, it's see many, do many before you do one," she said.

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