Improving Surgical Training with Better Tools – SurgiReal's Founding

 

As a company, SurgiReal is dedicated to creating better outcomes for patients by providing medical and nursing students with high quality tools for practicing surgical techniques. We created our suture training kits and lifelike suture pads so that students would have realistic, portable and accessible tools with which to hone their surgical skills.

Before SurgiReal’s founding, there simply weren’t products on the market that could adequately prepare students for operating on living tissue. Pigs’ feet, banana peels, and even carpet pads were often used as suture practice materials in medical training programs around the world. When practice skins were available, however, none of the products were sufficiently lifelike – relying on foam layers and materials that would easily rip and tear.

SurgiReal’s founder Dr. Dean Hendrickson, a surgeon and educator of more than twenty years, was frustrated by the lack of quality surgical training tools available to educators. He wanted to bridge the gap between classroom instruction and a students’ first surgery – helping them cultivate best practices and build confidence before working with live tissue. 

As a trained surgeon, Dr. Hendrickson could provide keen insight into what a high quality suture pad needed to feel like. Too often, there was insufficient communication between the end users and those who were developing surgical training simulators. Consequently, the options on the market simply didn’t measure up. Dr. Hendrickson hadn’t yet found a suture practice material that looked and felt realistic enough to truly instruct students in surgical techniques. 

This led Dr. Hendrickson and his partners on the SurgiReal team to begin experimenting with silicone in order to develop a practice skin that was as realistic as possible. The goal was to build a product that effectively replicated the muscle layers, skin and fascia. The layers each have their own consistency and thickness, which really enables students to understand what the various tissue layers feel like when being sutured. It also helps them learn how the various layers of tissue react to the needle and allows them to see how to repair the tissue well. 

Furthermore, beyond the low quality and unrealistic materials of most other suture pads one of the biggest problems Dr. Hendrickson identified was that none of the suture training pads could bleed. In addition to the lifelike layers of the 6-layer suture pad, SurgiReal saw a need for a product that trained students in wound closure that factored blood into the procedure. To provide them with high fidelity simulation-based learning, a successful suture training pad needed to have that degree of verisimilitude. Students need to learn to stanch blood, as well as to tie off their sutures properly and avoid oozing.

Although it took significant effort and extensive research and development, SurgiReal eventually designed a suture pad that could bleed. Attached to a bag of artificial blood, the suture pad’s vascular grid design replicates the tissue and vessel response of a living body. This provides students with exponentially more lifelike training and better prepares them for the reality of working on patients. 

While SurgiReal’s products were initially developed for students at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science at Colorado State University, we quickly found that the realism, reusability and affordability of our surgical training products scaled into all areas of medicine. Rather than being limited to veterinary medicine, our suture training pads could be used successfully in all levels of medical training – nursing, PA, NP, and medical students.

Since launching in 2012, our company has grown substantially as more and more universities, colleges, and medical training facilities have adopted our products. Our suture training kits are now being used in hundreds of university classrooms across the United States, as well as with global partners.

We’re committed to being a part of the medical education process and proud of the contributions we’ve been able to offer to the field. Our award winning products are making a difference in the lives of thousands of medical students and educators across the country. And the exceptional training our tools can provide means better outcomes for untold numbers of patients.