Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

Surgical training receives a more humane test dummy

A donation by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals means that healthcare providers in Egypt and neighbouring states no longer have to practice advanced trauma surgery on live sheep.

Trainers preparing TraumaMan for the Advanced Trauma Life Support course in Tripoli, Libya

Patients suffering a life-threatening abdominal or thoracic trauma are unlikely to be relieved to find out that the medic hurriedly cutting into them gained their skills by practicing on livestock.

Until recently, however, practitioners being trained in responding to advanced trauma in patients at the Egyptian Life Support Training Center (ELSTC) had to practice on sedated sheep.

All this changed last August after a donation by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to the training center: three state-of-the-art simulators called TraumaMan now take the place of sheep.

This sophisticated, manikin-like substitute comes with the benefit of not only being mercifully lifeless, but it also provides much more effective surgical training thanks to its accurate simulation of the human body.

It’s a transition that resulted after ELSTC’s director Abdelhakim Elkholy approached PETA and noted the discomfort participants of the advanced trauma course felt while injuring and cutting into live sheep.

The necessity of conducting the training using sheep at a designated animal laboratory restricted the location options for the course. The portable simulators not only made the training more mobile, they also significantly cut the cost of the course for participants as no animal laboratory now requires renting.

“The simulators are allowing us to really expand,” says Elkholy, “and we are hoping to soon set up centers in Minya, Assuit and Alexandria.” Talks are also underway to establish a training site at Zagazig University in Sharqia in northern Egypt.

The ELSTC even took its three TraumaMan simulators last month to Tripoli, Libya, and trained 47 healthcare providers in handling advanced trauma.

“We are in the process of starting an independent training center there,” Elkholy says, who also notes that doctors from Syria will soon undertake the course in Cairo before returning to use the much needed skills in the ongoing crisis of their home country.

However, the TraumaMan simulator, for all its benefits, is a limited resource: the synthetic skin grafts covering its throat and abdomen are used up and disposed after each course. While PETA donated a number of these grafts with the three simulators, the ELSTC has already finished more than half of them since August.

“It’ll be a problem when they run out,” says Elkholy. “They are expensive and importing them is going to be a problem at the moment because of the currency issues we are facing in Egypt. I’m really worried about how we will continue.”

However, Justin Goodman, PETA’s laboratory investigations department director, says they are aware of the issue and keen to help.

“We’ll be helping the center obtain the additional equipment they need for this vital program that is saving humans’ lives and animals’ lives,” he says.


Photo credit: ELSTC


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