ARI hosts skill training workshop for students

Osteosynthesis, skill training, and workshops for students from ETH Zürich and ZHAW Winterthur

28 May 2018

On April 6-7, 2018, around 50 students from ETH Zürich and the University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in Winterthur met at the AO Center in Davos, to participate in hands-on training. The course was part of the lecture series on 'Skeletal Repair' at ETH Zürich organized by Sibylle Grad, Martin Stoddart, David Eglin, Fintan Moriarty, and Stephan Zeiter, scientists from the AO Research Institute Davos (ARI). The students' studies are focused on Health Sciences, Health Technologies, and Biomedical Engineering. The goal of this two-day course was to provide basic insight in osteosynthesis principles and in current research activities within the AO Research Institute Davos, thereby highlighting the interfaces between medicine, biology, and engineering. 

Prof R Geoff Richards, AO Research Institute Davos Director, opened the course with an introduction into the AO Foundation, its worldwide importance, and its continuing research towards improved patient care. Richards stressed AO Research Institute Davos's role in translational pre-clinical research and illustrated some recent examples of new technologies, such as the fracture monitoring device or new developments for the prevention of infection. In the second lecture, Dr Veit Schoenborn, orthopaedic and trauma surgeon at the Cantonal Hospital in Chur, comprehensively explained the principles of bone fractures, bone healing, and surgical fracture management. 

 At one of the skill training stations, a student learns how to use a drill without injuring the soft tissue

Osteosynthesis and skill training

The hands-on part started with the first osteosynthesis exercise. Under the guidance of Dr Raphael Jenni, leading surgeon at the Cantonal Hospital in Chur, the participants practiced the placement of an intramedullary nail using the provided surgical instruments and artificial bones. An expert team of surgeons from the Cantonal Hospital in Chur instructed and supported the students in their first attempts of bone fracture treatment. Further exercises included the placement of external fixators and compression plates, complementing the most important surgical techniques. The students were delighted with the practical experience, which was described as a valuable addition to the theoretical lectures. 

To further challenge the hands-on competence of the participants, four skill training stations were built and supervised by AO Research Institute Davos's biomedical development team under the guidance of Dieter Wahl. The four instructors Ivan Zderic, Peter Varga, Dominic Gehweiler, and Dieter Wahl explained the direct relationships between biomechanical and biophysical phenomena, the correctness of surgical instrument handling and the success criteria of implant fixation. All students were able to experience with their own hands, the potential pitfalls and consequences of treatment success.

 Students work on sample preparation for the bioreactor workshop

Workshops highlighting AO research and clinical cases

On the second day, the students participated in two of ten different workshops organized by the surgeons from the Cantonal Hospital in Chur, instructors from ZHAW, and AO Research Institute Davos scientists. AO Research Institute Davos workshops implemented hands-on protocols for gene transfer (Ursula Menzel, Yann Ladner), 3-D printing (David Eglin, Tiziano Serra), joint dissection, anatomy, microscopy (Dirk Nehrbass, Elena Della Bella), and bioreactor applications for cartilage (Angela Armiento, Matteo D'Este), and intervertebral disc research (Zhen Li, Sebastian Wangler). Bacterial infection and prevention as well as pre-clinical in vivo models for fracture studies were also addressed (Fintan Moriarty, Iris Keller). The application of specially designed implants (kindly provided by RISystems) for rat models, by Stephan Zeiter, was one of the highlights. 

Daniel Baumgartner, ZHAW, organized an interesting workshop about endoprosthetics, different materials, and potential complications. During the workshops led by Veit Schoenborn and Raphael Jenni, clinical trauma cases were discussed, and different diagnostic tools including imaging techniques demonstrated. Finally, short presentations of all workshops given by the students were very well-performed, confirming that the leaders successfully explained the topics, and the participants captured the take-home messages. 

These student courses contribute to the strengthening of AO Research Institute Davos's collaborations with ZHAW and ETH Zürich. Indeed, most of the Masters theses at the ETH Department of Health Sciences and Technology (D-HEST) carried out at the AO Research Institute Davos in recent years, were based on the initial experiences during this course.

The block course was organized and run by Sibylle Grad, Christoph Sprecher, Sonia Wahl, Mauro Bluvol, and Isabella Badrutt from the AO Research Institute Davos. We acknowledge DePuy Synthes and RISystems for providing training material.​​​​​

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