Virtual Neonatal Echocardiographic Training System (VNETS): An Echocardiographic Simulator for Training Basic Transthoracic Echocardiography Skills in Neonates and Infants
There is a great need for training in pediatric echocardiography. In addition to physicians being trained in pediatric cardiology and echocardiography technologists, neonatologist, pediatric intensivists, and other health care professionals may be interested in such training. Since, there is limited opportunity of training on live patients, echocardiographic simulators may be of help. No simulator with complete range of echocardiographic modalities is available for neonates and infants. The aim of this project was to develop a mannequin-based echocardiographic simulator capable of simulating full range of pediatric 2D, color flow Doppler, spectral Doppler, and M-mode echocardiograms. A mannequin, a laptop computer, a magnetic tracking device, and a six-degree freedom (6DOF) sensor incorporated in a dummy transducer serve as the hardware platform of the simulator. We obtained six to seven 4D echocardiographic datasets in DICOM format through five acoustic windows from each infant along with a complete set of 2D video clips of color flow, Doppler, and M-mode. The 4D datasets are sliced into 3D slices using the visualization toolkit and are displayed as 2D echocardiograms through the information obtained by the 6DOF sensor. The coordinates from specific 3D slices triggers display of video clips of color flow, M-mode, and Doppler echocardiogram. Software written in CCC programming language controls the basic function of the program. The main simulator screen displays the full range of 2D echocardiograms including color flow Doppler, spectral Doppler, and M-mode from each acoustic window, whereas the side screen display the position and motion of the cutting planes through a 3D heart model. The system includes a software module to perform hemodynamic measurements from specific video clips images. Our hybrid, mannequin-based pediatric echocardiography simulator provides full range of pediatric echocardiography training experience. This simulator may help training in pediatric echocardiography for which there is a growing demand in clinical medicine.