Rural neurosurgical and spinal laboratory setup

J Spine Surg. 2015 Dec;1(1):57-64. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2414-469X.2015.09.02.


Background: Increasing focus has been placed on the use of simulation in neurosurgical and spinal surgical training worldwide, with the establishment of many surgical laboratories dedicated to such purpose. So far, the opportunities for hands-on cadaveric training in the areas of neurosurgery and spine surgery remain limited in Australia, owing to various factors, including the abolition of dissection in many medical schools, high maintenance requirements and widespread geographical distribution of surgical trainees.

Methods: We established a cadaver-based neurosurgical laboratory based at the medical school of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, which is used by the surgical dissection course for junior surgical trainees offered by the university. We reported our experiences in setting up a neurosurgical research laboratory, and explored the feasibility of establishing a cost-effective anatomical research facility in a rural setting in Australia.

Results: We found that Genelyn(TM)-fixed cadavers had limited movements of the head as required for adequate surgical positioning and exposure. Furthermore, we discovered that bodies embalmed via the femoral vein had poorly perfused heads after surgical exposure, and thus decapitation had to be performed unfortunately for our purpose. Cadaver samples and surgical equipment were sourced from various veterinary practices and commercial companies. Using human and animal cadavers, this laboratory provided trainees with hands-on opportunities to improve their surgical skills and neuroanatomical knowledge, as well as develop familiarity with highly specialized surgical equipment.

Conclusions: We demonstrated the feasibility of establishing a cost-effective neurosurgical research laboratory in Australia and discussed various aspects of its maintenance.

Keywords: Neurosurgery laboratory; skull base; spine; training, microsurgery.