Shivali Mukerji, Jonathan Stone and G. Edward Vates
Neurosurgery is a field that requires extreme precision and skill and just like many other medical fields, is currently trying to find solutions to undertrained residents. Surgical education relies on training in the operating room and combined with long working hours, exhaustion this can threaten patient safety, increase operative times, and produce an entire generation of under-trained residents. The aim of this research project is to develop a learning tool that is inexpensive and yet effective in it’s use. Using 3D printed molds and polymer hydrogels, we aim to create an anatomically accurate representation of a sciatic nerve schwannoma extraction surgery. A schwannoma is a benign nerve tumor made of Schwann cells that tends to push the nerve in the affected area aside and if not removed in a timely manner, can cause debilitating pain. Using Poly Vinyl Alcohol (PVA) hydrogels and imaging from patients, layers of the thigh and the various components such as the nerve sheath along with the tumor are created. To replicate the functioning of a nerve, conductive yarn material is integrated into the nerve sheath to replicate nerve activity on stimulation and damage. PVA is selectively cross linked to mimic different tissue structures and capillaries containing blood are added to the dermis to mimic bleeding. This complete model includes all the components of a schwannoma removal surgery from delicate dissection of anatomical planes, identification of proximal and distal nerve ends, subcapsular dissection of the tumor, and multi-layer closure. The objective of this model is two fold- 1) to be an effective learning tool for residents entering the field thereby giving way to future models of more common surgeries and improving confidence amongst residents. T 2) The model provides residents the opportunity to become familiar with an otherwise rare disease.