We describe the feasibility of delivering a live orthopaedic surgical teaching session with virtual reality (VR) technology simultaneously for trainee surgeons in Ethiopia and the UK.
Forty-three delegates from the Severn Deanery in the UK (n=30) and Bahir Dar in Ethiopia (n=13) attended a live training session in February 2021. During the session, participants watched a surgical operation (recorded earlier that week with a 360° VR camera) alongside live commentary. A qualitative questionnaire was distributed to gauge feasibility, connectivity and educational value of the session as well as its VR component.
The majority of delegates from both the UK and Ethiopia felt that the use of VR technology to aid surgical training is feasible, that it is useful for learning surgical approaches, that it aids surgical performance and that it is superior to conventional resources. Bahir Dar residents strongly agreed that VR simulation videos would allow trainees to supplement reduced learning opportunities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and help to counteract their reduced operating experience. For Bahir Dar trainees, a lack of a stable internet connection for large VR files was the predominant issue.
This study demonstrates that there are infrastructure challenges in low and middle income countries (LMICs) in terms of the reliable delivery of VR teaching in orthopaedics at the current time. Despite this, our findings better inform the potential role of VR technology in surgical education, and shed light on the possibility for it to feed into and enrich surgical training in both LMICs and high income countries.