Innovative 3-D Models Allow Hands-On Training for Craniosynostosis

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Weill Cornell Medicine Craniosynostosis Course 2016
12-23-2016

A recent training course at Weill Cornell Medical College, co-directed by neurosurgeon Mark Souweidane of Weill Cornell Medicine and plastic surgeon Jeffrey Ascherman of Columbia University, provided an innovative opportunity for young surgeons to acquire hands-on experience repairing craniosynostosis using unique 3-D printed models.

The models were created by Du Cheng, a tri-institutional (Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and Rockefeller University) MD/PhD candidate, who has been working on new ways to use 3-D printing to create models of infant heads based on actual patient scans. These intricate models include realistic layers of skin, bone, dura, and brain, allowing trainees to learn and practice the remodeling surgery that these infants require.

These models fill a great need, since remodeling surgery to repair craniosynostosis is a complicated one and it has been difficult to train neurosurgeons and plastic surgeons to develop expertise in it. Not only is the condition relatively uncommon, there is also no ability for surgeons to train on cadavers as they usually do. This innovation in 3-D printing promises to bring new opportunities for experts to teach these advanced techniques to more young surgeons. The December 2016 course, held in the state-of-the-art Surgical Innovations Laboratory at Weill Cornell Medical College, allowed more than a dozen young neurosurgeons and plastic surgeons to train under a faculty of experts using these new models. (Article continues after slide show.)

Craniosynostosis Course 2016: The 3-D models are delivered
Craniosynostosis Course 2016: The 3-D models are delivered
3-D printed models at each surgical station
3-D printed models at each surgical station
3-D printed models lined up and ready for use
3-D printed models lined up and ready for use
Dr. Caitlin Hoffman provided background in diagnostic techniques
Dr. Caitlin Hoffman provided background in diagnostic techniques
Dr. Jeffrey Ascherman demonstrates initial surgical steps
Dr. Jeffrey Ascherman demonstrates initial surgical steps
Layers of tissue simulate  realistic anatomy during surgical practice
Layers of tissue simulate realistic anatomy during surgical practice
Dr. Souweidane shows surgical details to participants
Dr. Souweidane shows surgical details to participants

With the skin peeled back, the sutures of the skull are revealed
With the skin peeled back, the sutures of the skull are revealed

Dr. Spinelli instructs participants in surgical techniques
Dr. Spinelli instructs participants in surgical techniques

Dr. Hoffman oversees course participants
Dr. Hoffman oversees course participants
Du Cheng, whose 3-D models made the course possible, tries one out
Du Cheng, whose 3-D models made the course possible, tries one out




Dr. Thoma Imahiyerobo explains procedures to participants
Dr. Thoma Imahiyerobo explains procedures to participants

Dr. Antonio Bernardo, center, directs the Surgical Innovations Lab
Dr. Antonio Bernardo, center, directs the Surgical Innovations Lab
Dr. Ascherman
Dr. Ascherman



Dr. Ascherman
Dr. Ascherman
Dr. Souweidane
Dr. Souweidane

Approximately one in every 2,000 infants is diagnosed with craniosynostosis, which refers to the premature fusion of bony plates that are meant to keep expanding until the child’s rapidly growing brain reaches its full size. The brain continues to grow, but since it can’t expand properly in all directions the child’s head takes on a distorted appearance – if the prematurely fused suture runs from front to back, for example, the skull cannot expand at the sides and thus expands abnormally front to back, causing an elongated appearance. (See more about craniosynostosis.)

Cranial vault remodeling surgery reopens the prematurely fused sutures, allowing the skull to continue its normal expansion and repairing the distortion in the head shape. The ability of experienced surgeons to use these realistic models will provide an unprecedented opportunity for them to train their young colleagues in this complex procedure.

More about the course

More about Dr. Souweidane | More about Dr. Ascherman

More about Du Cheng | More about the Craniofacial Program