Computed tomography (CT)-directed needle biopsies are routinely performed to gather tissue samples near the spine. As currently practiced, this procedure requires a great deal of spatial reasoning, skill, and training on the part of the interventional radiologist. Our goal was to evaluate the procedure through a task analysis and to make recommendations as to how the procedure could be improved through technological intervention. To this end, a spine biopsy surgical simulator was developed to mimic the current procedure and to serve as a development testbed for procedure innovation. Our methods for looking at the biopsy procedure itself included a task analysis (which produces a detailed list of tasks needed to complete a goal, their order, and time to completion) and an evaluation of human performance measures related to our simulator interface. Experiments were run to examine the effects of force and visual feedback on path-tracking performance and to determine the effects of time delay in the visual feedback on path-tracking performance. Force feedback improved performance in the conditions with visual feedback and in the conditions with visual feedback and time delay.

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