Resident duty-hours restrictions have now been instituted in many countries worldwide. Shortened training times and increased public scrutiny of surgical competency have led to a move away from the traditional apprenticeship model of training. The development of educational models for brain anatomy is a fascinating innovation allowing neurosurgeons to train without the need to practice on real patients and it may be a solution to achieve competency within a shortened training period. The authors describe the use of Stratathane resin ST-504 polymer (SRSP), which is inserted at different intracranial locations to closely mimic meningiomas and other pathological entities of the skull base, in a cadaveric model, for use in neurosurgical training.
Silicone-injected and pressurized cadaveric heads were used for studying the SRSP model. The SRSP presents unique intrinsic metamorphic characteristics: liquid at first, it expands and foams when injected into the desired area of the brain, forming a solid tumorlike structure. The authors injected SRSP via different passages that did not influence routes used for the surgical approach for resection of the simulated lesion. For example, SRSP injection routes included endonasal transsphenoidal or transoral approaches if lesions were to be removed through standard skull base approach, or, alternatively, SRSP was injected via a cranial approach if the removal was planned to be via the transsphenoidal or transoral route. The model was set in place in 3 countries (US, Italy, and The Netherlands), and a pool of 13 physicians from 4 different institutions (all surgeons and surgeons in training) participated in evaluating it and provided feedback.
All 13 evaluating physicians had overall positive impressions of the model. The overall score on 9 components evaluated—including comparison between the tumor model and real tumor cases, perioperative requirements, general impression, and applicability—was 88% (100% being the best possible achievable score where the evaluator strongly agreed with the proposed factor). Individual components had scores at or above 80% (except for 1). The only score that was below 80% was related to radiographic visibility of the model for adequate surgical planning (score of 74%). The highest score was given to usefulness in neurosurgical training (98%).
The skull base tumor model is an effective tool to provide more practice in preoperative planning and technical skills.