The intricacies of cranial and cerebral anatomy have been the fascination of generations since the Middle Ages with attempts to figuratively represent these structures in increasing anatomical detail for the purposes of education, clinical application, and fascination. The initial renditions of cranial anatomy were represented by two-dimensional (2D) schematics of the ventricular system surrounded by disorganized neural tissue.1Increasingly sophisticated and innovative 2D schematics have been developed by physicians, anatomists, and illustrators through the ages to advance anatomical and surgical understanding of the intricacies of cranial anatomy. The recent advances in graphic design and computer animation have provided a new environment that can not only be highly accurate but also be potentially revolutionary for interactive 3D anatomical representation.
Within the realm of surgical education, anatomical relationships have to be mentally converted from 2D into 3D space for clinical and surgical applications. The design of 3D anatomical representations began in the late 1980s and evolved with the development of computer graphics 2,3and has an established presence in the neurosurgical literature. The next 3D modelling development was achieved with the introduction of the Visible Human Project to create a complete 3D representation of a male and female human body for the purpose of education.2,4
Evolution of 3D modelling in neurosurgery has involved surgical planning for temporal lobectomy,5cerebral aneurysm clipping,6,7transpetrous surgical approach,8temporal bone dissection,9,10and posterior fossa surgical planning.11Educational models that have been created include an interactive 3D virtual model of the temporal bone12-17and 3D cerebrovascular atlas18. These models provide a unique perspective on the presented anatomy unparalleled by the existing 2D representations of neuroanatomy.
The following series of articles from the Neurosurgical Atlas in the upcoming issues of the Operative Neurosurgery will introduce interactive 3D models that provide an immersive third dimension of both normal and pathological neurosurgical anatomy. These models are the result of 5 years of intense computerized sculpting work by The Neurosurgical Atlas team to create exceptionally detailed interactive virtual specimens that hopefully will provide an unparalleled realism (Model 1).
The neurosurgical operating room has also been created in this virtual environment and will be presented in the near future (Model 2). We sincerely hope that the viewers will find this new interactive environment helpful in their understanding of cranial anatomy and operative neurosurgery for educational, illustrative, and surgical training purposes.