Virtual Reality and Surgery


Research Group Leader

Professor Stephen O'Leary

The Department of Otolaryngology is home of Melbourne University’s Virtual Reality Surgical Simulation laboratory.  This group, that brings together researchers from the Faculties of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Engineering and Education, seeks to define the role of simulation in surgical training.

Virtual reality (VR) surgery is the way in which surgeons of tomorrow will be taught. VR surgery involves immersion into a 3D world where the “patient” can be touched and operated on. Our team has developed a virtual reality surgical environment for ear surgery that was the recipient of the University's Knowledge Transfer Award for 2008. The group has also developed a prototype for dental simulation. We are involved in exciting research that will determine how best to train surgeons in VR, and provide real-time feedback to trainees.

Research domains: Clinical Sciences & Health Practice

Research Activity

Available Projects

Most of the projects below can be tailored for Honours or Research Higher Degrees (Masters, Doctor of Medical Science or PhD). For more information on applying for these degrees see below:

  • Virtual Reality and Surgery: Emphasis on virtual reality simulation for ear and cochlear implant surgery, automating advice to surgeons during simulation and 3D imaging in medical education.

Find other projects

Current Research

  1. High fidelity simulation of ear surgery for cochlear implantation and surgical training
  2. Real-time feedback for surgeons participating in surgical simulation
  3. Specific applications for paediatric cochlear implantation
  4. Real-time feedback during simulated surgery - providing timely advice to surgeons while they train
  5. Comparisons of hand movements in real and simulated environments
  6. Examination of the effect of simulator fidelity upon outcomes of surgical training
  7. 3D TV during surgery

Current Staff

Dr Sudanthi Wijewickrema, Research Fellow

Dr Yun Zhou,Research Fellow

Current Students

Dr Patorn Piromchai, PhD candidate

"Virtual reality for the training of ear surgery"

Mr Daniel Ma

"Provision of real-time feedback for surgical stimulation using data mining"

Former Students

  • Dr Yun Zhou
  • Dr Yi-Chen Zhao
  • Mr Alex Avery

Featured Grants

  • Australian Research Council Linkage in collaboration with Cochlear Ltd.
  • Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation Project
  • Asian Office of Aerospace - US Airforce

Featured Publications

  1. Wijewickrema S, Piromchai P, Zhou Y, Ioannou I, Bailey J, Kennedy G and O'Leary S.Developing Effective Automated Feedback in Temporal Bone Surgery Simulation. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery,2015.
  2. Ioannou I, Avery A, Zhou Y, Szudek J, Kennedy G and O'Leary S. The Effect of Fidelity: How Expert Behavior Changes in a Virtual Reality Environment. The Laryngoscope, 124(9), 2144-2150, 2014.
  3. Piromchai P, Kasemsiri P, Wijewickrema S, Ioannou I, Kennedy G and O'Leary S. The Construct Validity and Reliability of an Assessment Tool for Competency in Cochlear Implant Surgery. BioMed research international 2014.
  4. Hutchins ME, O'Leary SJ, Stevenson D, Gunn C, Krumpholz A. A networked haptic networked environment for teaching temporal bone surgery. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2005;111:204-207.
  5. Hutchins ME, Stevenson D, Gunn C, Krumpholz A, Pyman B, O'Leary SJ. Communication in a Networked Haptic Virtual Environment for Temporal Bone Surgery. Virtual Reality Journal. 2006;9:97-107.
  6. O'Leary SJ, Hutchins MA, Stevenson DR, et al. Validation of a networked virtual reality simulation of temporal bone surgery. Laryngoscope. Jun 2008;118(6):1040-1046.
  7. Zhao YC, Kennedy G, Hall R, Rathod H, O'Leary SJ. Differentiating levels of surgical experience on a virtual reality temporal bone simulator. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010;in press(143):S30-35.
  8. Zhao YC, Kennedy G, Yukawa K, Pyman B, O'Leary S. Improving temporal bone dissection using self-directed virtual reality simulation: results of a randomized blinded control trial. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Mar 2011;144(3):357-364.