Emergency Abdominal Surgery Simulator
User Centered Designing Project
Sep. 2016 - Dec. 2016
What is the abdominal cavity?
The abdominal cavity is the largest hollow space of the body. It contains organs like stomach and liver. In this project, the simulator should at least include abdominal walls, bowels and a ruptured aorta.
- Abdominal walls consist of five layers: skins, fat, fascia, muscle and peritoneum.
The bowels are a fragile obstruction and are easily damaged during the operation.
The abdominal aorta is placed on the top of the spine. If a rupture exists in the abdominal aorta, the patient can die within one minute due to massive blood loss.
Specify our client's needs with interviews
We spent first two months collecting our clients' requirements and understanding how they interact with the existing simulator. After getting invitation, we arranged 3 interviews with the medical staff that would be involved in the training session. They offered us three expectations: low cost, realizing training purposes and easy set-up. We later created a mind map to summarize all the requirements and stepped further to abdominal anatomy study.
Analyze the Existing Solution
The hospital did not have a certain simulator but to use laparoscopic surgery simulator as an alternative. In order to get inspiration as well as understand the pain points, we evaluated the existing simulator and listed the pros and cons.
+ Each component is easy to set up and remove.
+ Anatomic shape of the simulator provides the users with the context of use.
- High cost: over 1000 euros.
- Incomplete Training purposes: lack of blood circulation system
- Low fidelity: bowels and abdominal walls do not touch realistic
The procedures of an emergency abdominal surgery
After evaluating the existing simulator, we ventured to analyze the surgery process as a whole, aiming to simulate real usage scenarios. In this way, we were able to think from our clients’ point of view and to figure out where we should pay attention to and come up with possible upgrades.
1. When designing blood circulation system, we must take the tempo of blood into account. The abdominal pressure will be released after making incisions, which means the tempo should change accordingly.
2. Considering the time limit it provides for the surgeon trainees to operate, it’s better to specify the amount of “blood” liquid once in use.
B. When making incisions, the surgeons aren’t meant to cut the muscle layer, which offers us an opportunity to recycle “muscle” layer.
C. Bowels are vulnerable to be damaged during the operation, yet trainees may not know their mistakes, so we need to give them instant feedback when they cut the bowels unconsciously.
Drawing directly from user research findings, we summarized and compiled a list of design goals.
So, what if...
Blood Circulation System
Anatomic Torso Top
1) A silicone tube, with an inner diameter of 10 mm, will be placed at the bottom of the cavity box.
2) A Pump will be used to manually simulate the heartbeat.
3) The blood will be simulated by baking colours.
By looking at the torso, the user will know
1. what lies beneath the covered abdominal cavity;
2. what are the contents (the bowel, organs etc.);
3. the locations of those contents.
Each layer of the abdominal walls will be built by five different materials: Skins (artificial leather), Fat (plastic foam), Muscle (dark foam), Fascia (dark lether). What's more, the bowels will be simulated by a plastic tube.
We plan to find a large plastic box that fit the torso cover and use another smaller plastic box with same dimensions in width and length in order to attach the abdominal cavity box inside the simulator.
Prototype our ideas
Conduct usability testing
After prototyping, we did the usability testing with our clients in the hospital. Feedbacks and evaluations were collected in order to make several adjustments.
- Add a black hard half-tube at the bottom of the box to simulate the spinal ridge.
- Two sponges were placed to simulate organs in order to increase abdominal pressure.
- Make a guide for the operator of the simulator
Evaluate the simulator
The project turned out to be a success. We managed to cover the main requirements from our client, and most importantly, our client was happy with the product. This simulator has been put into use now. Here are the final evaluation results when comparing our simulator with the existing one.
Final Demo Video
Things I learned
- User-centred design is a problem-solving process which puts the user(s) as its core in every stage.
- The importance of communication cannot be overemphasised in user-centred design. The feedback from our client guided us through the project.
- I learnt a great deal of creativity during the project and how to compromise between the different requirements.