Microsurgery training course

01 November 2017 - By: Nicholas Wu

Microsurgery training course 

Nicholas Wu
Dr. Min Jong Song (Mary’s Hospital, the Catholic University of Korea & Sahlgrenska Academy) watching carefully over a cannulation procedure on an anesthetised rat Photo: Michael Axelsson


By Nicholas Wu, University of Queensland, Australia

For a PhD student from Australia, a country with strict ethical laws on the use of live animals for training purposes, opportunities for learning surgical techniques outside of your expertise are rare to come by. However, an opportunity arose after attending the Society for Experimental Biology’s successful Annual Meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden, when the University of Gothenburg, in collaboration with Sahlgrenska University Hospital, hosted a 4 day workshop entitled ‘Experimental microsurgery’. Professor Michael Axelsson, along with three surgical instructors, guided eight PhD students from around the world through various theoretical and practical aspects of experiment microsurgery. The main focus of the course was the practical aspect, with around 75% practical training and 25% theory. This course was introductory for students (like myself) with limited or no previous experience in surgical and microsurgical techniques.

Microsurgery is defined as surgical procedures requiring the use of microscopes, such as working at the level of blood vessels and nerves. Thus, it requires high quality facilities and equipment for success, for example goldplated forceps that can cost around €400 each. The practical aspect of the course started with 2 days of macro- and microsurgical exercises with inanimate models (such as gauze, latex membrane and chicken thigh), before two days on tissue- and vessel microdissection on anaesthetized rats. The exercises included suturing techniques, cannulation and basic microvascular surgery (end-to-end anastomosis) of various vessels (femoral arties and veins, carotid arteries and vena cava). For the theoretical aspect, much of the focus was on the ergonomics of the surgical environment, adjustment of the operative microscope, basic anatomy of rats, anaesthesia, pre-, intra- and post-operative care, aseptic technique and surgical instruments.

For me this was one of the most challenging but rewarding courses. All attendees were required to learn the surgical techniques quickly and efficiently within a short time span. However, because of the instructor to student ratio, the learning experience was personalised for each of us. One surprising technique we learnt during the course was the use of a modified Nintendo Wii controller in a game to practice hand-eye coordination that can be applied to surgery. It was an interesting and fun mechanism that some of us got to practise on. Overall, the microsurgery course was an unforgettable experience. I would highly recommend this course for anyone in experimental biology that requires invasive procedures. It has greatly assisted me with the efficiency and output of my experiments, stressing the importance of the 3R concepts (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement), with the emphasis on refinement of techniques and reduction of animals. While not all techniques learnt may apply to all students, Michael highlights the importance of good laboratory practice and that can be applied to all lab settings.

Thank you Michael Axelsson, the three instructors, and the other seven attendees for creating a wonderful training environment.

 

 

Category: Teaching and Learning
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Nicholas Wu

Nicholas Wu

I am a biologist who is interested in how organisms work. More specifically, I am interested in the form and function of vertebrates (in particular, reptiles and amphibians) in relation to their ecology and evolution. I completed my undergraduate degree in New Zealand, working on a variety of species ranging from invasive koi carp to the rare endemic tuatara. I then took on an honours project at The University of Queensland, Australia investigating the burrowing energetics and comparative morphology of skinks. My current project in the Franklin lab involves examining how sloughing (skin shedding) affects skin function in amphibians, and how chytridiomycosis affects this process from an integrative perspective.