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Neurosurgery. 2003 Mar;52(3):499-505; discussion 504-5.

A three-dimensional interactive virtual dissection model to simulate transpetrous surgical avenues.

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Division of Neurological Surgery, Barrow Neurological Institute, St Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona 85013-4496, USA.



This project involves the development of a three-dimensional surgical simulator called interactive virtual dissection, which is designed to teach surgeons the visuospatial skills required to navigate through a transpetrosal approach.


A robotically controlled microscope is used for surgical planning and data collection. The spatial anatomic data are recorded from sequentially deeper cadaveric head dissections as a series of superimposed anatomic pictures in stereoscopic digital format. The sequential series of images are then merged to form the final virtual representation.


The current three-dimensional virtual reality simulator allows the user to drill the petrous bone progressively deeper and to identify crucial structures much like an experienced surgeon drilling the petrous bone. The program allows surgeons and trainees to manipulate the virtual "surgical field" by interacting with the surgical anatomy. The interactive system functions on a desktop computer.


The ability to visualize and understand anatomic spatial relationships is crucial in surgical planning, as is a surgeon's confidence in performing the surgery. The virtual reality simulator does not replace the need for practicing surgery on cadavers. However, it is designed to facilitate, via stereoscopic projection, learning how to manipulate a drill in complicated or unfamiliar surgical approaches (e.g., a transpetrosal approach).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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