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Hollywood FX artists help doctors practice child surgery

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Boston Children's Hospital has formed an odd partnership with a practical special effects company to create more realistic surgery simulator models. Santa Monica-based Fractured FX is well acquainted with human anatomy (and gore), having worked on FX's bloody American Horror Story. It also helped recreate surgeries performed in the early 1900s on the Cinemax Series The Knick. For its part, Boston Children's Hospital has had a surgery simulator program for quite awhile, but decided it needed to up the realism quotient and give doctors a better "haptic" feel for patient's organs.

With input from Boston Children's Hospital doctors, Fractured FX developed models "not only look real, but they feel real," according to the hospital's press release. They contain "artificial tissues that bleed and pulsate, man-made blood vessels that feel like the real thing when doctors insert a catheter and special gels that feel like brain tissue when an endoscope is guided through them." The FX team need to develop new designs and materials for the models, with the doctors giving them feedback as to how realistic they felt compared to real organs.

A side-by-side image of a real patient brain (Left) undergoing ETV surgery as compared to the Fractured FX brain (Right) during the same critical moment of the procedure. (PRNewsFoto/Boston Children's Hospital)
A real brain undergoing ETV surgery (left) and Fractured FX's brain (right)

So far, the simulators can be used to prep surgeons for heart-lung bypass procedures and a tricky procedure called an "EVT," where doctors remove tumors and other blockage that prevents the brain from draining fluids. Trainers are also being developed to prepare doctors for cleft palate and other procedures regularly performed on children. According to Fractured FX CEO Justin Raleigh, "A lot of us had aspirations in medicine, and... we wanted to take our skills in special effects to try and help people." Boston Children's plans to offer the models commercially to other hospitals, with Fractured FX handling the manufacturing chores.

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