This bleeding virtual leg may help train combat medics to perform better in the field

If the sight of blood makes you queasy, seeing virtual blood probably won’t be your cup of tea either. But in order to better prepare medics for emergency situations, these graphic simulations are being used to give combat medics a more realistic simulation of hairy situations. While nothing could fully prepare these individuals for the full horror of a war zone, the hope is that a fake, virtual leg gushing blood will provide a better sense of what to expect when they need to address the real thing.

“We’re genuinely hopeful that our simulations will enhance the educational experience for medical trainees,” Jeff Eldredge of the University of California, Los Angeles, told the New Scientist about his team’s work. “But I’m really pleased just to get visceral reactions from my kids. That probably makes me a horrible father.”

The new simulation is unique in its hyper-realistic representation of the injuries resulting from an explosion and the resulting shrapnel. Because the model uses the actual CT scan image of a real patient, the team was able to create a more precise representation of what blood vessels would be affected, how bleeding would occur, and how bone and skin particles would appear as well.

We are solving the governing equations of fluid dynamics and tissue mechanics, so these are truly physics-based simulations,” Eldredge noted, and the realism of this modeling may be integral in saving lives out in the field.

While the current manifestation of the simulation only allows medics in training to look at the wound, Eldredge and his team hope that moving forward, they’ll be able to allow participants to actually treat the virtual wound as well. This would enable trainees to see how their decisions affect the patient in real time, offering a truly novel hands-on experience as close to the real thing as is humanly, and humanely, possible.

“A visually faithful representation of the injury and bleeding is … important” in training exercises, says Eldredge. And now, we have a new resource to help us do just that.

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