Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Making a Difference 2010 Review

Improving people's health and wellbeing

The future of sinus surgery

A team led by Dr Russell Harris from the Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering is working with surgeons from the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust to help drive forward new techniques for sinus surgery training.

The researchers have produced realistic simulation models of the complex sinus that are helping to lessen the risk of accidental damage during endoscopic surgery and ultimately increase patient safety.

Precision surgery is essential in sinus operations due to the vulnerability of the relevant bone structures and the locality, and the severe potential consequences of interfering with eye muscles, the optical nerves, the brain and the internal carotid artery.

Until now junior doctors and other clinicians have been trained using cadavers, with simulation techniques limited and costly. However, the Loughborough researchers have been investigating design and production techniques which will enable them to create realistic physical surgery models of the sinus.

Using data from MRI and CT scans, the researchers have produced bespoke ceramic models using additive manufacturing techniques, which allows parts to be ‘printed’ in 3D, by building them layer by layer. The resultant models replicate the appearance and physicality of the human sinus in surgery.

The team are also developing software that clinicians can use to simulate specific disorders, by ‘swelling’ selected areas or reproducing tumours or inflammation.


Dr Harris demonstrated the research as part of the Patient Safety First Campaign, held at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The project is impacting on the teaching methods used in sinus surgery, having been included in national and international surgical training courses.

The team is also investigating the technique to produce simulation models of patient-specific cases, which could lessen risk and increase success in complex individual operations.