Neurosurgical simulator for training aneurysm microsurgery

Acta Neurochirurgica (2020) 162:2313–2321

Due to its complexity and to existing treatment alternatives, exposure to intracranial aneurysm microsurgery at the time of neurosurgical residency is limited. The current state of the art includes training methods like assisting in surgeries, operating under supervision, and video training. These approaches are labor-intensive and difficult to fit into a timetable limited by the new work regulations. Existing virtual reality (VR)–based training modules lack patient-specific exercises and haptic properties and are thus inferior to hands-on training sessions and exposure to real surgical procedures.

Materials and methods We developed a physical simulator able to reproduce the experience of clipping an intracranial aneurysm based on a patient-specific 3D-printed model of the skull, brain, and arteries. The simulator is made of materials that not only imitate tissue properties including arterial wall patency, thickness, and elasticity but also able to recreate a pulsatile blood flow. A sample group of 25 neurosurgeons and residents (n = 16: early residency with less than 4 years of neurosurgical exposure; n = 9: late residency and board-certified neurosurgeons, 4–15 years of neurosurgical exposure) took part to the study. Participants evaluated the simulator and were asked to answer questions about surgical simulation anatomy, realism, haptics, tactility, and general usage, scored on a 5-point Likert scale. In order to evaluate the feasibility of a future validation study on the role of the simulator in neurosurgical postgraduate training, an expert neurosurgeon assessed participants’ clipping performance and a comparison between groups was done.

Results The proposed simulator is reliable and potentially useful for training neurosurgical residents and board-certified neurosurgeons. A large majority of participants (84%) found it a better alternative than conventional neurosurgical training methods.

Conclusion The integration of a new surgical simulator including blood circulation and pulsatility should be considered as part of the future armamentarium of postgraduate education aimed to ensure high training standards for current and future generations of neurosurgeons involved in intracranial aneurysm surgery. Resident training ,Surgical simulation,Surgical education ,Microsurgery , Intracranial aneurysm , Neurosurgery