Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Hanif. M. Ladak


Myringotomy refers to a surgical incision in the eardrum, and it is often followed by ventilation tube placement to treat middle-ear infections. The procedure is difficult to learn; hence, the objectives of this work were to develop a virtual-reality training simulator, assess its face and content validity, and implement quantitative performance metrics and assess construct validity.

A commercial digital gaming engine (Unity3D) was used to implement the simulator with support for 3D visualization of digital ear models and support for major surgical tasks. A haptic arm co-located with the stereo scene was used to manipulate virtual surgical tools and to provide force feedback.

A questionnaire was developed with 14 face validity questions focusing on realism and 6 content validity questions focusing on training potential. Twelve participants from the Department of Otolaryngology were recruited for the study. Responses to 12 of the 14 face validity questions were positive. One concern was with contact modeling related to tube insertion into the eardrum, and the second was with movement of the blade and forceps. The former could be resolved by using a higher resolution digital model for the eardrum to improve contact localization. The latter could be resolved by using a higher fidelity haptic device. With regard to content validity, 64% of the responses were positive, 21% were neutral, and 15% were negative.

In the final phase of this work, automated performance metrics were programmed and a construct validity study was conducted with 11 participants: 4 senior Otolaryngology consultants and 7 junior Otolaryngology residents. Each participant performed 10 procedures on the simulator and metrics were automatically collected. Senior Otolaryngologists took significantly less time to completion compared to junior residents. Junior residents had 2.8 times more errors as compared to experienced surgeons. The senior surgeons also had significantly longer incision lengths, more accurate incision angles, and lower magnification keeping both the umbo and annulus in view. All metrics were able to discriminate senior Otolaryngologists from junior residents with a significance of p < 0.002.

The simulator has sufficient realism, training potential and performance discrimination ability to warrant a more resource intensive skills transference study.