Immersive Three-Dimensional Modeling and Virtual Reality for Enhanced Visualization of Operative Neurosurgical Anatomy

Samuel B. Tomlinson, Benjamin K. Hendricks, Aaron Cohen-Gadol

World Neurosurgery

Learning the endless intricacies of operative neurosurgical anatomy requires that surgeons complement their intraoperative experiences with a variety of educational resources. In the past 2 decades, rapid improvements in digital graphics and computing power have enabled a new generation of 3-dimensional (3D) virtual resources that overcome limitations of more traditional 2-dimensional materials. Today, dozens of immersive 3D visualization platforms exist for applications such as learning neuroanatomy, simulating operative techniques, and planning surgical interventions with patient-specific models. The purpose of this article is to identify current applications of 3D digital modeling and virtual reality in neurosurgery. In addition, we showcase a new series of freely available 3D virtual-reality models created to assist in learning complex cranial anatomy. We anticipate these models to have a wide range of educational, clinical, and research applications. Three-dimensional visualization is poised to modernize the ways we learn and teach neurosurgical anatomy outside of the operating room. Future generations of neurosurgeons are expected to benefit from these technologies from the earliest stages of training.