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Release: September 24, 1999

UI Health Care unveils new anesthesia patient simulator

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- What breathes, has a pulse and reacts to medications just like a real person, but is not a living being? It's the new, state-of-the art patient simulator now being used by anesthesia specialists with University of Iowa Health Care.

The patient system is an anatomically correct, adult-size mannequin which appears to be nearly lifelike. Professors in the UI department of anesthesia will use the new patient simulator to train anesthesiologists, medical students and other health care professionals.

"The value of the patient simulator as a teaching tool cannot be overstated," said David Brown, M.D., UI professor and head of anesthesia. "The technology allows us to create or reproduce both routine and emergency situations in a controlled environment without any risk to human life."

The patient simulator is controlled by a computer. It can be programmed to mimic a wide range of conditions that may affect patients in an operating room. Chest sounds and movement, pulse, pupil reaction, blood pressure and neurologic responses are just some of the lifelike features of the patient simulator. Intubation can be performed and chest tubes can be inserted. The patient simulator is connected to an anesthesia machine and other life support monitors just as a real patient would be. The simulator reacts just as a real patient would to anesthetic agents and other medications.

The patient simulator is placed in a very detailed mock operating room. The setting creates a very realistic environment that can be used to instruct and challenge students.

"The applications of this system for medical education and research are extensive," said Ann Perino, M.D., UI assistant professor of anesthesia and director of the Human Patient Simulator Program. "The technology is so adaptable that its potential for education is limited only by our imaginations."

The patient simulator can be programmed to create a sequence of events to which students must respond to safeguard the "health" of the simulated patient. An instructor can vary the response of the patient simulator to present students with new scenarios. In addition to anesthesia residents' training, the patient simulator can also be used to help practicing anesthesiologists earn continuing medical education credits. Nurse anesthetists, respiratory therapists, emergency treatment specialists, paramedics, surgery teams and intensive care specialists will also use the system.

The advanced system costs approximately $225,000 and is one of only a few in the Midwest. The unit is manufactured by MedSim. About 20 MedSim patient simulators are in use across the United States, with about 50 in existence worldwide.

Future plans call for the addition of an infant-size mannequin to the system to allow for pediatric anesthesia and pediatric intensive care training.


University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.