Screen capture of pericardiocentesis simulator

Pericardiocentesis is a surgical procedure performed to relieve fluid buildup between the heart and the pericardium. This condition (cardiac tamponade) interferes with the heart's ability to pump blood. Cardiac tamponade must be corrected rapidly, or the patient may die. Initial treatment involves inserting a cannula between the pericardium and heart, then aspirating the blood to relieve pressure buildup. Due to the condition's urgency, there is insufficient time to use imaging techniques such as fluoroscopy or ultrasound. The surgeon performs the procedure guided by palpable anatomical landmarks, and experience.

We have developed a computer-based simulator for this procedure. An early version uses the Reality Sculptor™ hardware platform. The system measures cannula insertion point, entry angle, and depth to determine if the procedure was performed correctly. These parameters are changeable by the instructor. Later versions used the lower cost CathSim™ AccuTouch™ vascular access device by Immersion Medical.

Our system is presently used as part of an Introduction to Surgery course for 3rd year medical students. Our system was also used in an experimental Advanced Trauma Life Support® course performed without animals or cadavers.

Project Members

Alan Liu