Hollywood & Johns Hopkins University Revolutionize Brain Operation Simulations With 3D Printing

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In April, Hollywood special effects experts and a group of computer engineers and neurosurgeons from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSM) led a collaborative project to develop a more efficient ecosystem wherein surgeons can perform simulated delicate and minimally invasive brain operations.

Prior to the introduction of the collaborative project between JHUSM and Hollywood special effects experts, neurosurgeons relied on pre-manufactured human-like dummies to perform practice operations and surgical procedures. However, the procedure failed to provide a realistic situation for emerging neurosurgeons..

Instead, the group of engineers and Hollywood special effects experts utilized 3D printing technology to create a lifelike 3D simulator for neurosurgeons. The utilization of 3D printing enabled engineers to create a more realistic ecosystem wherein brain tumors or other illnesses resembled that of actual patients. More importantly, the use of 3D scanning technology allowed the special effects experts to create nearly identical replicas of several patients.

The joint study was first published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics on April 25 and entailed a detailed overview of the technology and its ability to guide neurosurgeons through an endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV).

Replica of the human brain created using 3D printing technology

The procedure involves the use of endoscopes to treat certain forms of hydrocephalus, which is when cerebrospinal fluid accumulates and puts pressure on the brain. Patients suffering from the condition often require shunts to drain the fluid and carry it away from the brain. The minimally invasive ETV, however, eliminates the need for shunts by short-circuiting the fluid back into the normal channels of the brain.

The collaborative project led by JHUSM marks a significant milestone within the field of neurosurgery as it provides surgeons and medical students an opportunity to obtain experience through lifelike situations and surgical procedures.

According to various organizations including the American Cancer Society, the survival rates of brain tumors and other diseases in relation to the brain are significantly lower than that of other illness. Diseases such as anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma have an average survival rate of 25 percent.

The presence of advanced technologies and innovative methods to improve and enhance precision of surgical procedures will ultimately lead to an increase in survival rate through the elimination of side effects.

Dr. Alan Cohen

Dr. Alan Cohen, the professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the senior author of the report stated:

“For surgeons, the ability to practice a procedure is essential for accurate and safe performance of the procedure. Surgical simulation is akin to a golfer taking a practice swing. With surgical simulation, we can practice the operation before performing it live.”

Dr. Cohen further emphasized that the 3D printing-based technology even allows experienced professional neurosurgeons to carry out complex and delicate surgeries with increased precision and efficiency. By conducting the surgical procedure prior to the actual surgery, surgeons will be able to obtain a far better picture of the process and carry out the procedure under an optimal condition.

In the study, Dr. Cohen and his team replicated a full-scale head of a 14-year-old child who suffered from hydrocephalus. What set the study apart from others is that the model was structured after an actual patient suffering from the disease. The use of 3D printing technology allowed engineers to detail the smallest components down to facial features, hair, eyelashes and eyebrows.

Upon the creation of the model, Cohen and his team garnered four neurosurgery fellows and 13 medical residents to perform ETV on the simulator. The fellows and residents who participated in the study rated the effectiveness of the simulator highly, at 4.88 out of 5.

Cohen explained:

“With this unique assortment of investigators, we were able to develop a high-fidelity simulator for minimally invasive neurosurgery that is realistic, reliable, reusable and cost-effective. The models can be designed to be patient-specific, enabling the surgeon to practice the operation before going into the operating room.”

We’ve seen various cases of human brain replicas being produced using 3D printing and scanning technologies. In October of 2016, researchers from the St. Louis University Department of Neurological Surgery and St. Louis University Hospital asked Stratasys Direct Manufacturing to create accurate 3D printed brain models for surgical training. Stratasys carried out a similar project to that of Cohen and his team’s.

At the time, Saleem Abdulrauf, the professor and chairman of the St. Louis University Department of Neurological Surgery stated:

“I personally perform a lot of brain aneurysm surgeries. It is a complex operation given the number of anatomical issues that we’re dealing with under the microscope. I knew if there was a way of simulating those complications before the operation using the same tools and under the same microscope we’d have a higher positive impact on the procedure outcome for the patient.”

Discuss in the Brain Surgery forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: John Hopkins University / Images: AANS]

 

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