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Reanimated pig organs improve surgical practice

By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-22 09:19
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A team of Chinese researchers has developed an innovative way of preserving the internal organs of slaughtered pigs, so that they can be later reanimated and used in the training of surgeons to provide a more realistic simulation of human surgical procedures.

It takes some 10,000 hours of practical training to become an experienced surgeon, but the cost of using live animal organs can be prohibitive, and the use of plastic models and simulators unrealistic.

The team from the Organ Transplant Center of the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong, led by professor He Xiaoshun, has developed a system whereby the abdominal organs of pigs are obtained from slaughterhouses and preserved in liquid before being resupplied with blood and nutrients and reanimated for surgery practice at medical training centers.

The practice enables the organs to function as if they were alive, producing a more realistic response to surgical procedures and thus better responding to the trainee surgeons' actions.

The organs can remain "living" in this condition for about three days, with the liver lasting for more than seven days, according to He.

The internal organs of pigs closely resemble human organs, and hospitals sometimes purchase whole pigs to train doctors but at a high cost, He said.

In training, dead organs, man-made plastic organs and simulators are less realistic and often fail to display specific events such as bleeding and bile leakage.

As laparoscopic surgeries have become a standard approach for many diseases, such procedures are usually undertaken by the operating surgeon, leaving insufficient time for novices to practice.

The live pig organs made possible by this new approach are more economical and allow young surgeons to practice repeatedly, which helps improve the training effectiveness and shortens the learning curve, He said.

The approach has been applied at several hospitals in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, where He's hospital is based, as well as in Wuhan, Hubei province, and in Beijing.

The live pig organs can also be used for teaching anatomy to medical students. Conventionally, organs are preserved in formaldehyde and are distorted in color and structure.

The laparoscopic training facilitated by this new approach provides a completely different experience, said Qu Wei, a professor at Beijing Friendship Hospital of Capital Medical University.

The reaction of an organ is vividly felt when devices are used on it during procedures, which better simulates the scenario in clinical practice, Qu said, adding that the new teaching model helps reduce the learning curve.

This kind of laparoscopic training bears little difference to procedures on real animals or humans, said Deng Liang, director of the clinical capability training center of the Seventh Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University.

For example, bleeding from broken blood vessels and intestine movement are identical to those in a real scenario, creating an immersive and high-fidelity procedural effect, he said.

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