3D Models Used by Neurosurgeons at Montefiore to Help Correct Childhood Skull Deformities
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3D Models Used by Neurosurgeons at Montefiore to Help Correct Childhood Skull Deformities

Craniosynostosis is a condition in which one or more of the normally open joints between the bones of your baby's skull (sutures) close and fuse prematurely, resulting in an abnormally shaped head. It affects one in 1000 children.

Over the past several decades, surgeons have employed many different surgical procedures to correct the cosmetic deformities associated with craniosynostosis. While they all involve the removal of parts of the skull in order to reorganize and replace the bones into a more ideal shape, older methods relied heavily on the surgeons’ eye alone to visualize the best reconstruction.

Pioneering Groundbreaking New Treatments

Newer methods, however, use advanced technology to help physicians achieve better results. These techniques, which include Computer Assisted Drawing (CAD) software and three-dimensional (3D) printing, allow surgeons to better envision, plan and implement optimal reconstruction techniques.

Pediatric neurosurgeons and craniofacial surgeons at Montefiore have been at the forefront of these state-of-the-art procedures. Our physicians now strategize craniosynostosis surgeries on computers that import the infant’s preoperative CT scans to construct a 3D simulation of the child’s skull. We then use CAD software to model the surgery by simulating the cuts in the bone and the reassemblage of these pieces. This allows us to choose the best possible reconstruction that most closely resembles “normal” infant skulls.

Research is now being done that employs a 3D printer to print the model, which can then be used during surgery as a template to guide the surgeon in the reconstruction of the bone pieces used to correct the deformity.  Additional research is also being conducted on the utility of intraoperative CT scanning with reconstruction of these images into a 3D image of the reconstructed skull.  To ensure that the surgery can accomplish the desired goals, our surgeons can then use computer software to compare the image of the reconstructed skull with that of the computer-generated model for the reconstruction.

These advances have shortened operative times and improved cosmetic outcomes, without increasing costs. Our surgeons have also found that these newer techniques have facilitated far clearer and more meaningful discussions with parents about the goals and potential outcomes of the surgery.

The Montefiore Department of Neurological Surgery and Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery are proud to be pioneering these techniques that are maximizing results for these young patients and their families.
For more information regarding this procedure, or to refer patients to one of our surgeons who specialize in craniosynostosis reconstruction, please contact us at 718-920-7400.

Figure 1: Preoperative virtual 3D reconstructions

Figure 2: Optimized Virtual Model for Use in the Operating Room

Figure 3: Pre-operative models used to show the planned bone rearrangements to parents


Figure 4: Preoperative computer generated model’s contour (lighter gray) with intraoperatively acquired CT image superimposed (brighter gray) confirming match of surgical reconstruction with pre-operative model.