LAS VEGAS — The UNLV medical school is using a state-of-the art orthopedic surgery simulator to give its residents realistic operating room experiences.

University Department of Orthopedic Surgery Chair Dr. Michael Daubs likens the experience 20 orthopedic residents are getting to that of commercial airline pilots in training. “This is a tremendous advance in education for orthopedic surgery,” he said.

Flight simulation helps fledgling pilots practice and prepare for challenging scenarios before they take off, Daubs said. Using a truly realistic simulator known as the ArthroS, developed by the Swiss company VirtaMed, to train up-and-coming surgeons only makes sense, Daubs said.

“Why wouldn’t we want those training for surgery to have the most realistic training possible?” Daubs asked, standing inside the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas near University Medical Center and Valley Hospital Medical Center. “When I was in training, they weren’t around.”

The VirtaMed ArthoS comes close to replicating the structures of the human body. The pressures residents feel when they encounter tendons, cartilage or bone are nearly identical to those they would discern if operating on a live patient.

Scenarios include shaving the meniscus, suctioning and controlling bleeding. A red liquid substance resembling blood covers the screen if a resident make a serious mistake,

Daubs, known for his expertise in spine surgery, said he expects to continue to get top graduate students in orthopedics with the help of the simulator, which allows him to record and grade the students on their precise movements.

“Very few medical schools have anything close to this,” he said, noting that graduate medical students in their early residencies previously did much more watching than doing. “(Now) they can become better much faster.”