• ​Observation and mentoring in the operating room are an essential part of neurosurgical training but opportunities are limited by time, cases and clinical expertise.
  • Neurosurgery procedures can also be lengthy, making it challenging for doctors to observe procedures due to their own busy schedules.
  • Neurosurgeons from the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) have partnered with technology company Kyalio to address these challenges by creating virtual reality learning experiences based on real neurosurgical cases.


SINGAPORE, 29 JUNE 2022 – Neurosurgeons from the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) are ‘bringing’ doctors from Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa into their operating rooms to support their training without the need to travel. This has been possible by creating immersive virtual reality (VR) modules based on real-life neurosurgical cases through a partnership with Singapore-headquartered technology company Kyalio.

“Text books can only teach so much. The best way for medical students and junior doctors to learn is by being in the operating room to observe procedures and if possible take part in the surgery.  Watching neurosurgeons manage cases allows them to pick up vital skills such as how to anticipate problems and make life-saving decisions when complications occur,” said Dr Chen Min Wei, Consultant, Department of Neurosurgery, NNI. 

Unfortunately, such observation is not always possible, said Dr Chen, as it relies on medical students and doctors being in the right place at the right time and hospitals having specialists with the necessary expertise to perform the surgery. This is a particular problem in countries where there is a shortage of neurosurgeons . Border closures during the pandemic have further compounded the problem by preventing neurosurgeons from travelling overseas to conduct training. Another issue is that doctors rarely get a chance to have hands-on experience in the operating theatre as the margin for error in neurosurgery is too narrow.

To address these challenges, Dr Chen and other neurosurgeons from NNI have worked with Kyalio to develop VR training modules to give medical students and doctors a simulated experience of standing next to a mentor during different neurosurgical procedures. This allows them to experience the important steps of the operation, hear discussions related to the procedure and ‘look around’ the operating room to see the setup and team dynamics. The virtual reality environment also gives a realistic appreciation of the surgical anatomy, something that 2D videos cannot achieve.

All the modules are based on real cases, treated by NNI neurosurgeons and captured by Kyalio with the consent of patients. Kyalio post-processing uses proprietary software to provide users with a virtual reality experience when watching either on an oculus headset or even with a simple mobile VR viewer.

“Kyalio was set up in 2019 to create affordable yet advanced technologies for large scale surgical education to meet growing demand for quality medical services. Many countries have exponentially increased the output of new doctors but experienced doctors who lead training in these countries remain far fewer and training methods have to become ‘high yield’ in nature,” said Samuel Choo, co-Founder, Kyalio.

The footage and creation of the training modules are part of a Research Collaboration Agreement between NNI and Kyalio, with the jointly owned IP now being commercialised by Kyalio.
The goal is to create a library of at least 100 neurosurgery training modules on the Kyalio platform, covering a diverse set of cases which include the natural variations in pathology and anatomy that neurosurgeons may encounter in their practice. To date, the Kyalio platform houses training modules in procedures such as craniotomies (surgery to open up the skull), benign and malignant brain tumour resections as well as neurovascular and neurospine surgeries.

The collaboration with NNI adds neurosurgery to Kyalio’s surgical content coverage, which has so far been used by more than 1,000 learners across Southeast Asia, India and Africa.