Multi Award Winning Epidural Simulator Research at Data Science Institute

The epidural simulator research project based at Data Science Institute, Bournemouth University has received multiple international awards, and has attracted coverage from newspapers, magazines, members of parliament and online news.

The simulator has been developed by Dr Neil Vaughan during his PhD research with Associate Professor Venky Dubey  and Professor Bogdan Gabrys from Bournemouth University’s Data Science Institute, alongside Poole Hospital NHS collaborators: Dr Michael Wee and Dr Richard Isaacs.

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The simulator aims to improve training for anaesthetists to deliver epidurals, a medical procedure involving the injection of anaesthetic between spinal vertebrae. Although over one thousand epidurals are given every day in the UK, around 3% result in injury. The developed simulator can help to reduce patient injury, and insurance costs to the NHS.

The PhD project began in November 2010. Virtual reality software was developed and coupled with a haptic device for tactile interface. The system replicates conditions of giving an epidural to a real-life patient to enhance the training. Parametric virtual patient model allows adjustments for different heights, BMIs, angles, and rotations of the spine.

The system provides a haptic, tactile interface by incorporating a Novint Falcon haptic device connected to a 3D modelled graphical simulation. Novel aspects of the simulator are said to include 3D graphics, 26 modelled vertebrae (cervical and lumbar), and patient variation based on measured data. An immersive 3D monitor with polarized images then allows visualisation from different angles using zoom and rotate.

Within the first six months,  the research was showing a big impact and was presented to Senior Members of Parliament in the house of commons, Westminster, London in 2011.

The simulator will be useful to help doctors train to do the procedure to improve results and reduce the risk of harm to patients, within NHS hospitals, private healthcare, medical training and university hospitals worldwide.

Professor Michael Wee, a consultant anaesthetist at Poole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘I developed the simulator because there is a need to provide precise training in a delicate clinical procedure which has potential devastating effects to the mother when things go wrong.  A high fidelity epidural simulator will help to reduce the learning curve and thereby improve the success of epidurals whilst reducing potential harm to the mothers.’

The project – which aimed to develop a simulator combining a 3D interactive model of the lumbar spine with a haptic needle injection device – has already received international attention and received numerous awards.

Also a sterile wireless pressure measurement device was developed to collect wireless pressure data from actual patients, which underwent clinical trials on patients during 2012 – 2013.

Twice the project won the best poster award in 2012 and 2013 at the Bournemouth University  Postgraduate conference.  The project also received an international grant to present the research at International Design, Engineering and Technology Conference, Chicago 2013.

The epidural research was selected in final 8 for the national UK National Patient Safety Awards 2013. The research team attended the award ceremony at Mayfair, London in 2013.

During 2013, the research was selected as the only European finalist in the top ten worldwide for the USA Innovation Showcase (IShow) by American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), alongside MIT, Harvard, John Hopkins Universities.

In 2013 the project was covered in ‘The Engineer’ magazine, also with online coverage. Also coverage of the research was printed in the ‘Politics Today’ magazine.

The epidural research has been shortlisted for a number of awards, including

  • Presented at House of Commons, Westminster to MPs from all over the UK.
  • Finalist for National Patient Safety Awards 2013, in the Technology and IT to Improve Patient Safety category
  • Final 8 for Design of Medical Devices International Student Design Showcase 2013.
  • Final 10 for American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME) Innovation Showcase in USA, 2013 – competing against MIT and Harvard.
  • Winner of Innovation Award from Institution of Engineering & Technology 2013.
  • Winner of Scholarship in Ambition Awards from Institution of Engineering & Technology 2013.
  • Winner of EPSRC ICT Pioneers 2014, Impact of novel and emerging ICT on society.
  • Winner of Best postgraduate researcher prize from Vice Chancellor of Bournemouth University, Nov, 2014.
  • Final 6 for the Times Higher Education Awards 2014 for outstanding ICT initiative.
  • Winner of Prestigious Academic Grant from Association of Commonwealth Universities May 2015.

The epidural project was Winner of the worldwide title IET Innovation Awards 2013. The epidural research beat the British Telecomms Research Laboratory in the grand final, beating over 400 entries from 92 countries, winning the ICT category open to all HEI and industry research worldwide – this received numerous press, news and magazine coverage.

Dr Neil Vaughan was announced as winner of the competitive IET Scholarship award 2013, open to all PhD students in the country.

Dr. Neil Vaughan was honored with title of 2014 UK ICT Pioneer, shown on BCS video winning against all PhD students in the country, winner of ‘Transforming Society’ award, beating Oxford, UCL, Imperial in the grand final which culminated in a high profile showcase where Neil Vaughan presented his dragons den pitch to CEO of EPSRC, and key stakeholders IBM, ARM, Defence science and technology laboratory (dtsl), Hewlett Packard (HP), BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

Several international awards and shortlistings

Several international awards and shortlistings

The epidural research was finalist in top ten for Times Higher Education (THE) Awards 2014 for ICT, against all UK universities. The project team attended the Times Higher Education Awards within the grand final event at Mayfair, London.

In 2014 the Epidural simulator was subsequently featured as a case in the Research Chronicle magazine, available in print and online, distributed to several of BU’s partners.

In 2014, Dr Neil Vaughan’s PhD research was awarded the 2014 Postgraduate Researcher Prize by the Vice-chancellor of Bournemouth University, as the winning research project across all schools and faculties delivering most impact and progress judged be the Executive Committee.

Further international awards and shortlistings

Further international awards and shortlistings

During May 2015, Dr Neil Vaughan was awarded a prestigious academic grant from the Association of Commonwealth Universities. The funding which contributes towards promising early career researchers was a competitive award awarded to selected researchers from over 170 entries throughout the commonwealth.

Receiving numerous awards for epidural simulator research

Receiving numerous awards for epidural simulator research

The project continues to develop and deliver impact in the international research environment.