The temporal bone is one of seven bones that comprise the human skull, and has an intimate relationship with many vital structures. Anatomically, its three-dimensional relationships make it one of the most challenging areas for surgeons to understand and master. In addition, the temporal bone contains minute structures that are among the most sophisticated and delicate in the human body. These structures include the cochlea and vestibular organs, which are responsible for hearing and balance; the middle ear, including the ossicles, which conduct acoustic energy to the cochlea; and the facial nerve, which is responsible for controlling the muscles of facial expression, and contributes to the sensation of taste. Additionally, the temporal bone forms a major portion of the skull base, and has intimate relationships to vital structures including the carotid artery, jugular vein, cerebral cortex, brainstem, and cranial nerves.
Surgical procedures performed on the temporal bone include: procedures to eradicate chronic and acute infections; procedures to remove malignant and benign tumors within the temporal bone, from the skull base, or from the posterior cranial fossa; procedures to restore the hearing mechanism; procedures to eliminate balance disorders; and procedures to correct congenital anomalies.
For surgeons-in-training, and even surgeons-in-practice, mastery of the anatomy of the temporal bone and the many complex approaches necessary to treat patients takes years of focused endeavor. This is typically accomplished through the dissection of human cadaver temporal bones, which are scarce, and require a dedicated laboratory facility.
Efforts are currently underway to develop a realistic simulator for temporal bone procedures. Users immersed in the simulator will interact with a three-dimensional temporal bone, derived from patient-specific data, using a haptic interface to simulate traditional surgical procedures. Feedback from experts in otologic surgery will be built into the system for additional instruction.
This presentation will include an overview of the application being developed, a report of its current state of development, and plans for the future.