Boston Children’s Hospital Is Using Special Effects to Improve Medical Training

The hospital is partnering with a Hollywood special effects company to make highly accurate anatomical models.

With a new partnership, Boston Children’s Hospital is getting one step closer to Hollywood.

The hospital announced Monday that its simulator program, SIMPeds, is working with special effects company Fractured FX to create highly accurate anatomical models, which doctors can use to practice for difficult surgeries and medical procedures at no risk to patients.

Fractured FX is not a newcomer to this area: It’s behind the effects for shows like American Horror Story: Freak Show and The Knick, a series set in a 1900s-era hospital in New York that features many surgical reenactments. Due to that expertise, Boston Children’s is trusting the firm to manufacture medical models that look, feel, and act like real organs and tissues—they can even bleed and pulsate.

Boston Children’s reps say the cooperative is more than feat of engineering—it will also help doctors better prepare for complicated medical procedures. In a statement, Peter Weinstock, director of SIMPeds, said the models are a cutting-edge advancement in training:

“To make simulations effective, you want to promote suspension of disbelief, to create an environment where everyone is believing that they’re working on a real child. Other simulators exist but their aesthetics and anatomy are fairly rudimentary, making it hard to keep people’s heads in the game.”

Making the trainers is a painstaking process that requires expertise across a wide range of topics. Boston Children’s clinicians provide accurate medical and anatomical information; SIMPeds pros offer their engineering and 3D printing knowledge; and Fractured FX experiments with materials until it gets just the right look and feel.

The partnership was announced at the Boston Children’s Global Pediatric Summit + Awards. Two of the first trainers developed through the collaboration were on display at the event, including a model for demonstrating a heart-lung bypass and a procedure that prevents fluid from draining into the brain.