Researchers from Malaysia and the UK have used a new multi-material 3D printer to create realistic, low-cost model of the skull for use by students in practicing neurosurgical techniques.
The model uses a variety of materials that simulate the various consistencies and densities of human tissues encountered during neurosurgery.
Neurosurgery is a difficult discipline to master. Trainees may spend as many as 10 years after graduation from medical school developing and honing their surgical skills before they can be designated as proficient in their specialty. The greater the number and variety of neurosurgical training sessions, the better the training experience.
However, the researchers say, it’s difficult to find suitable simulation models that offer accuracy and realism for neurosurgical training while keeping training costs down.
Three-dimensional printers have been used to create models of normal and pathological human tissues and organs for physician training and patient instruction for some time. Until recently, however, only one material could be used in the creation of models, which is of little value for hands-on training.
With the advent of multi-material 3D printers, the sophistication and versatility of the new models that could be created increased substantially, but so did their price. Now the newest multi-material 3D printers are available at lower prices.
With the aid of a Stratasys Objet500 Connex multi-material 3D printer, researchers at the University of Malaya created a two-part model that can simulate pathological conditions in actual patients.
The base piece of the model (the “head”) consists of one material. It has human features (a “face”) and the natural contours of a human skull. This piece is used to train the novice in neuronavigation techniques and can be reused again and again.
The second part of the model defines the region in which simulated surgery is performed. This piece contains several different materials, which separately simulate skin, bone, dura mater, tumor, and normal brain tissue.
To make the training session valuable, the trainee must be able to see, feel, and even hear different “tissue” responses to surgical instruments and techniques during simulation surgery. The researchers say the “skin” is designed to be pliable enough to be cut by a scalpel and repaired by sutures, yet sturdy enough to be held by a retractor; the “bone” has to be hard enough for the trainee to obtain experience using bone perforators and cutters; and the “dura mater” must be thin and pliable — just like the real thing.
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald