Neurosurgeons have teamed up with Hollywood special effects artists to design a 3D simulator for practicing brain surgery. Vanessa Johnston reports.
When a team of neurosurgeons designed this 3D brain surgery simulator, they thought some Hollywood special effects magic would help. Enter Emmy-Award winning special effects group FracturedFX, known for its work on films like "The Conjuring" and "Boogeyman 2". Co-developer Dr. Peter Weinstock, of Boston Children's Hospital: SOUNDBITE (English) DR. PETER WEINSTOCK, CO-DEVELOPER OF 3D SIMULATOR FOR PRACTICING BRAIN SURGERY, SAYING: "It was not a long leap ultimately for us to start to reach out to our friends in Hollywood and say 'come on board,' because we needed that kind of expertise to fully fill out what we were trying to accomplish in life-like, realistic rehearsal." FracturedFX created a full-scale model of a 14-year-old child's head and brain. The 3D simulator helps neurosurgeons practice a minimally invasive operation called endoscopic third ventriculostomy, or ETV. It's used to treat hydrocephalus -- a common condition in pediatric neurosurgery -- when there's excessive build-up of cerebrospinal fluid and pressure on the brain. ETVs re-route the fluid back through normal channels, eliminating the need to implant a shunt. The device is a big step up from training tools like fruits, vegetables, and cadavers, says co-developer Dr. Alan Cohen of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. SOUNDBITE (English) DR. ALAN COHEN, NEUROSURGEON AND DEVELOPER OF 3D SIMULATOR, SAYING: "It's safe, it's realistic, it's repeatable, and the real beauty of this is we can actually use the instruments that we use in the operating room on the 3D printed model heads." Their biggest challenge now? Getting time-strapped health professionals to practice. SOUNDBITE (English) DR. PETER WEINSTOCK, CO-DEVELOPER OF 3D SIMULATOR FOR PRACTICING BRAIN SURGERY, SAYING: "Some people say that medicine, in some ways, is the last high stakes industry not to rehearse priority game time, and I think that's because of a lot of the pressures on healthcare. And maybe the answer is to pause in that moment and join the other high stakes industries and start to rehearse as part of our regular activities." The pair hope that widespread use of their Hollywood-inspired simulator will help improve future surgery outcomes.