Thursday, July 21, 2016

3-D Printed Skulls May Help Doctors Perform Better Nasal Surgeries

By Christina Hwang,
Staff Reporter -

Models mimic real patient's skull.
Dr. Gurrola performing endoscopy on skull model.

"You can now add rhinoplasty to the laundry list of specialties benefiting from the utilization of 3-D printing.

The University of Virginia Health System's Dr. Jose Gurrola II, a nose specialist, and Dr. Robert Reed, an otolaryngology resident, and Dwight Dart, a design lab engineer at the university's School of Engineering and Applied Science, built 3-D-printed skulls to use as training models.

The developers obtained a CT or MR scan from a patient, and by using a combination of hardware and software, converted the scan into a 3-D file, which was then printed using a 3-D printer.

According to Gurrola, most patients are not used to having something in their nose, so they may be very nervous, just as a new hospital resident may be nervous before performing a procedure for the first time. 

He said that having a 3-D model allows students, residents and doctors to see, feel and understand dimensions of "real human geometry."

By utilizing the 3-D model, doctors are able to take residents and trainees through more of a laboratory setting as opposed to learning in the OR or a clinic. They learn "how to perform safe procedures, how to perform safe evaluations and how to deal with some of our more complex situations that may arise from the," said Gurrola in the following video.

Among the other benefits of using the 3-D printed heads, Gurrola said they are relatively cheap to produce and can also be reused.

Before the 3-D model was created, residents would practice performing nasal endoscopies among themselves, according to the announcement, and would take turns "scoping" each other. "It wasn't always comfortable," Gurrola recalls. "But I knew that we still needed a way to train the residents."

As an advancement, the developers hope to integrate sensors and fluid flow lines into the skull models, so they react similarly to humans, which could provide opportunities for doctors and trainees across medical departments.

"One of the most rewarding experiences is to see the amazing smile that's generated after we ask a patient who hasn't breathed well for years to take a deep breath, and they realize they're finally able to breathe well through their nose again," Gurrola said."

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