A study presented during the Anesthesiology 2012 annual meeting has shown that an iPhone application called iLarynx was so effective at simulating fiberoptic bronchoscopy that when app-trained students eventually used a real bronchoscope on a manikin, they completed the procedure in less than half the time of students exposed only to anatomy photos. Also, their failure rate was reduced by more than 80 percent.

iLarynx creator Raymond Glassenberg, M.D., Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, stressed the importance of extensive training and excellent hand-eye coordination when using a flexible bronchoscope, which is used by anesthesiologists to navigate breathing tubes past delicate anatomy such as the vocal chords.

“This app is a realistic, 3-D, interactive simulation of a very important procedure, which was designed for a new generation of anesthesiologists who grew up playing Nintendo,” said Dr. Glassenberg. “The app provides a feel for what we do in the hospital, and it very closely resembles the real world.”

Dr. Glassenberg, along with his son (a video game developer), created iLarynx™ to use the same functionality iPhones and iPads use for driving games and navigation apps. Dragging a finger along the screen allows the user to feed a simulated scope into a patient’s digital airway. Cutting-edge graphics create an ultra-realistic experience; for instance, a misstep causes the virtual patient to cough as the glass fogs over from the patient’s digital “breath.”

The free iLarynx app has been downloaded more than 15,000 times and was recognized by the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology with a “Best in Education” award.

“Attendance at an airway workshop can cost around $500, airway manikins sell for approximately $2,000 and virtual reality simulators cost $50,000 and require a designated simulator facility,” said Dr. Glassenberg. “Our app has been shown to be a highly effective learning tool, which can be used by anyone anywhere in the world – for free.”

Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists.