The Media Communication Lab (MCLab) at USC has a strong commitment to providing an interdisciplinary environment for student researchers, to nourish diversity of application of electrical engineering. Ph.D. candidate Xue Wang, whose research interest lies in biomedical and information processing, has been working on the validation of an evaluation tool for assessing surgical techniques. Capsulorhexis, which is a significant portion of cataract surgery, is of particular interest. Ongoing work on this problem has collaboration between faculty in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering at USC and the Jules Stein Eye Institute (JSEI) at UCLA since June of 2013.

The research aims at developing a valid set of quantitative and qualitative measures of surgical skills to accelerate the training of residents. Currently, capsulorhexis surgical techniques are assessed through an expert-panel-video-review using evaluation questions from the OSCAR and GRASIS evaluation tools.* However, there is considerable inter-observer variability, and direct quantitative questions were the least reliable. Xue’s work combines knowledge in biomedical image/video processing, machine learning, and computer vision to develop an automated quality assessment system to evaluate and improve surgical techniques, such that it is objective, accurate, and reliable. Human inspection is minimized along with the exploration of surgical video understanding via machine learning.

“It’s exciting to put focused and concerted effort in exploring the unknown and trying to find a solution for challenging problems. When you are working with excellent and talented people, you have a more open outlook on the potential of new cross-disciplinary methods”, Xue said. Xue’s work has been presented at AUPO and ASCRS conferences in January of 2014 and April of 2014, respectively.** Her result shows that video/image analysis provides an objective way to measure proficiency in the capsulorhexis part of cataract surgery, and could provide new tools for understand the acquisition of surgical skills.


OSCAR: Ophthalmology Surgical Competency Assessment Rubric

GRASIS: Global Rating Assessment of Skills in Intraocular Surgery


AUPO: Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology

ASCRS: American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery