The activities performed in the development of the premature neonatal simulator are research and design cycles to create a basic hard- and software architecture and to design and implement a simulator that enables training for assessment of vital signs ([Peters et al., 2010]). Different prototyping platforms are evaluated ([Peters et al., 2008]) and argumented choices are made for these implementation platforms. Realization of the envisioned simulator will be done in iterative steps. The resulting knowledge and expertise is used to create a prototype able to simulate several important vital signs.
Although the focus of the work is more on technology, the demands of each functionality implemented -and therefore the basis of the simulator- are based on real-life requirements:
Realistic display of clinical signs of a premature. The requirements are derived from the experience of medical staff in handling premature neonates. This also involves taking perception and human action possibilities into account.
Interactivity: responses generated using physiological models. The requirements are derived from the way the human organism works for real babies. Note that not only a healthy baby is to be simulated, but also the extremely unhealthy states of a baby that could occur immediately after birth.
The research question addressed in the design are:
Can we design a baby-manikin that simulates the specific features of a premature infant?
More specifically, can we design those elements of the baby-manikin that enable to assess a baby's vital signs?
Can we incorporate physiological models in such a way that the baby manikin responds adequately to treatments?
Can we fruitfully deploy contemporary developments such as miniaturization of embedded processors and 3D-printing?
At present we have preliminary prototypes that allow simulation of heart and lung sounds, skin colorization, muscle tension and arm movement. The prototype parts are built at the actual size of a preterm baby and construction parts (the inside mechanics as well as the actual baby-shell) are mainly created using a 3d printer. These prototypes incorporate specifically designed mechanic elements as well as the electronics to simulate the basic vital signs.
[Peters et al., 2008] Peters, P.J.F., Feijs, L.M.G., et al. (2008). Plug and play architectures for
rapid development of medical simulation manikins. Proceedings of the 12th World multi-conference on systemics,
cybernetics and informatics, WMSCI2008, Orlando, Florida.
[Peters et al., 2010] Peters, P.J.F., Delbressine, F.L.M., et al. (2010). Design of a Medical Simulator
Hard- and Software Architecture. Entertainment for Education. Digital Techniques and Systems. X. Zhang,
S. Zhong, Z. Pan, K. Wong and R. Yun, Springer Berlin / Heidelberg. 6249: 235-246.