Background: Recently computed tomographic angiography (CTA) and MR angiography (MRA) have been used to image cerebrovascular structures. Although CTA and MRA are accurate and sensitive imaging modalities, limitations have been identified in relation to image interpretation. Stereolithographic (SL) biomodelling is a new technology that allows three-dimensional (3D) CT and MR data to be used to accurately manufacture solid plastic replicas of anatomical structures. A prospective trial of SL biomodelling in cerebrovascular surgery has been performed to investigate the feasibility and clinical utility of this new display medium.
Methods: Fifteen patients with cerebral aneurysms and 1 patient with a cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM) were selected. 3D CT and/or MR angiograms were acquired and 19 solid anatomical biomodels manufactured using the rapid prototyping technology of stereolithography. The biomodels were used for patient education, diagnosis, operative planning and surgical navigation.
Results: The biomodels replicated the CTA and MRA source data. The accuracy of one biomodel was verified by comparison with a post mortem specimen, which corresponded exactly in the x and y planes but differed by 2 mm in the z plane. The ability to closely study an overview of complex cerebrovascular anatomy from any perspective on a solid biomodel was reported to enhance the surgeon's understanding, particularly when conventional images were equivocal. Cerebrovascular biomodels were found to be useful when positioning the patient's head for surgery, for selecting the best aneurysm clip and for the simulation of clipping. Patient informed consent was anecdotally improved. Disadvantages of the technology were the cost and manufacturing time.
Conclusions: Cerebrovascular biomodelling may have utility in complex cases or when the standard imaging is felt to be equivocal.