The Neurosurgery Simulation Core is one of the first academic neurosurgery simulation research centers in the world. Established in 2012 and co-directed by Clinical Director Joshua B. Bederson, MD, the Neurosurgery Simulation Core at Mount Sinai includes students, residents, attending neurosurgeons, and researchers, all of whom are motivated by our ultimate goal: to improve outcomes and reduce complications in patients undergoing brain surgery by leveraging the potential of novel surgical training, pre- and intraoperative simulation, and visualization technologies.
The Neurosurgery Simulation Core is actively involved in a variety of research projects, both basic and applied, to advance the field of Neurosurgical Simulation. We engage in a collaborative approach with academia and our industry partners to develop real-world, clinically relevant solutions to these problems.
Perhaps the largest problem in brain surgery simulation is the differentiation of similar structures from imaging. In many ways this is comparable to the problem of neurosurgery itself where complex relationships between similar, but functionally distinct, brain structures must be understood in order to achieve the desired outcome for patients. Our group focuses on the development of extremely fast software tools for the segmentation of brain structures that are currently difficult to model, such as cranial nerves, so that they can be included in downstream simulations and 3D prints for our patients and for basic research purposes.
Recently, an explosion of technologies have been developed in both academia and industry which transform the way 3D data is used to guide planning and execution of surgical procedures. Examples of these technologies include haptic neurosurgery simulation, advanced 3D visualization tools such as virtual and augmented reality displays, developments in interactive neuronavigation, advanced microscope integration, robotic controls, and 3D printing—all economical and on timescales relevant for patient care. In each use case, a complex interplay between technologies from the radiologist to the surgeon is necessary to achieve a meaningful result. Our research and development in the practice of neurosurgery simulation is therefore focused on the integration of multiple information sources into a comprehensible, non-distracting workflow that maximally benefits patient safety and outcome.
In addition to their intraoperative use, computer-based virtual reality simulations of intracranial pathology are used in clinical practice with increasing frequency. We are extremely interested in understanding the benefits of so-called “simulation-based” consultation for enhanced understanding of patient-specific anatomy and pathology. Our preliminary data suggests increased patient confidence and a better appreciation of surgical alternatives in discussion with patients and their family members.
At various times throughout the year, discussions, symposiums, and consultations will be held globally to further our understanding of neurosurgery and the latest technological advances impacting these procedures. From witnessing 3D-printing demonstrations of a severe scoliotic spine for pre-surgical planning, to listening to a leading expert explain how CT ventriculography can assess and monitor the hydrocephalus during a subarachnoid hemorrhage, these events bridge the gap between the important work done in laboratories, and the vital decision-making being handled by doctors before and after brain operations.
But even though these conferences deal with complex surgical topics, the simulation environments reveal the transformative possibilities of the latest technology on neurosurgical procedures in truly fascinating ways. Hands-on demonstrations in workshops, coupled with lectures featuring sophisticated computer imagery, can reveal the future of surgical optimization right before our eyes. And by attending any of these events, researchers and clinicians can participate in a vital exchange of neuroscientific information that is sure to inform, educate, and enlighten everyone involved.