The risk associated with sinus surgeries could be reduced with new techniques for producing physical surgery models of the sinus.
The technology is being developed by Loughborough University and Nottingham NHS Trust through an EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre-funded project that is investigating design and production techniques to produce realistic physical surgery models of the sinus.
With these models, doctors will be able to enact and evaluate different surgical cases.
Endoscopic surgery of the sinus anatomy requires high precision and carries a significant risk of accidental damage. It is claimed that at present, simulation techniques are costly and neglect many aspects of the surgical requirements.
The leader of the Loughborough team, Dr Russell Harris, from the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, said at present junior doctors and other clinicians are forced to rely on teaching from cadavers and limited simulation techniques.
The new method designs simulation models by reverse engineering the data from MRI and CT scans. These designs are made into physical models by automated manufacturing techniques. The resultant models replicate the appearance and physicality of the human sinus in surgery.
It is hoped the models will provide a valuable training resource by allowing an infinite number of clinical cases to be simulated. The team is also investigating the technique to produce simulation models of patient-specific cases, which could lessen risk and increase success in complex individual operations.
Anshul Sama, senior surgeon at the Ear, Nose and Throat Department at Queen’s Medical Centre said simulated ear surgery has been practiced for several years. Simulation in the field of sinus surgery has been unsuccessful, he added, because of the complexity of sinus anatomy and poor reproduction techniques.
Sama said with the ability to recreate the exact properties and anatomy using CT and MRI images, this deficit can be addressed. ‘This will greatly enhance training opportunities and patient safety,’ he added. ‘It may even become part of quality assurance and consultants’ revalidation process.’
Other parties supporting the research include Let’s Face It, a patient support charity, and Z-Corporation, which specialises in 3D printing systems.