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Neurosurgery. 2013 Jan;72 Suppl 1:154-64. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3182750d26.

Virtual reality simulation in neurosurgery: technologies and evolution.

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  • 1Department of Computer Science, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.


Neurosurgeons are faced with the challenge of learning, planning, and performing increasingly complex surgical procedures in which there is little room for error. With improvements in computational power and advances in visual and haptic display technologies, virtual surgical environments can now offer potential benefits for surgical training, planning, and rehearsal in a safe, simulated setting. This article introduces the various classes of surgical simulators and their respective purposes through a brief survey of representative simulation systems in the context of neurosurgery. Many technical challenges currently limit the application of virtual surgical environments. Although we cannot yet expect a digital patient to be indistinguishable from reality, new developments in computational methods and related technology bring us closer every day. We recognize that the design and implementation of an immersive virtual reality surgical simulator require expert knowledge from many disciplines. This article highlights a selection of recent developments in research areas related to virtual reality simulation, including anatomic modeling, computer graphics and visualization, haptics, and physics simulation, and discusses their implication for the simulation of neurosurgery.

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