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2 October 2009 | PR 09/130

Loughborough University and Nottingham NHS Trust lead the way in sinus surgery simulation

Researchers at Loughborough University are helping to develop a new technique to revolutionise the way sinus operations are trained for and performed.

The Loughborough team, led by Dr Russell Harris in the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, are working with Mr Anshul Sama at the Nottingham University Hospitals Queen’s Medical Centre Campus and a number of supporting parties to produce medical simulation models to help lessen the risk associated with complex sinus surgery operations and ultimately increase patient safety.

Now in its third year, the EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre-funded research has been investigating design and production techniques to produce realistic physical surgery models of the sinus to allow the enactment and evaluation of different surgical cases.

Endoscopic surgery of the sinus anatomy requires high precision and carries a significant risk of accidental damage to critical organs. At present, simulation techniques are costly and neglect many aspects of the surgical requirements.

The simulation models are designed  by reverse-engineering the data from MRI and CT scans and then realised physically by automated manufacturing techniques. The resultant models replicate the appearance and physicality of the human sinus in surgery.

The models will provide a valuable training resource by allowing an infinite number of clinical cases to simulated. The team are also investigating the technique to produce simulation models of patient-specific cases, which could lessen risk and increase success in complex individual operations.

Dr Harris believes that a successful conclusion to the project will demonstrate a tangible
effect on the teaching methods used in sinus surgery.

“At present, junior doctors and other clinicians are forced to rely on teaching from cadavers and limited simulation techniques. These options do not prepare doctors fully for the complexities of different clinical scenarios. The challenge is to enable training in a multitude of cases, while operating within feasible time and cost boundaries.

“With the new European working time directive for junior doctors now in force, the BMA and other organisations, most notably the Royal College of Surgeons, have expressed concerns that junior doctor training will suffer. Simulation models such as the ones produced by Loughborough University will address these implications by introducing greater scope and efficacy to enable focussed training in a reduced timescale.

“Longer-term, our aim is for these simulation models to be used in complex clinical cases, where precision and success in surgery is critical.”

Mr Sama, Senior Surgeon at the Ear, Nose and Throat Department at the Queen’s Medical Centre, added: “The constraints imposed by European working time directive and the need for better evaluation of trainees cries out for the use of simulation surgery. Simulated ear surgery has been practiced for several years but due to the complexity of the anatomy and poor reproduction techniques, simulation in the field of sinus surgery has been unsuccessful. With the ability to recreate the exact properties and anatomy using CT and MRI images, this deficit can be addressed. This will greatly enhance training opportunities and patient safety. It may even become part of quality assurance and Consultants revalidation process, ”

The research team comprises Russell Harris, Darren Watts, Matteo Gatto, Richard Taylor, of the Wolfson School of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University, and Anshul Sama and Jason Watson of Head & Neck Surgery, and Maxillofacial department, respectively. Other supporting parties include Let’s Face It, a patient support charity, and Z-Corporation, who specialise in 3D printing systems.


For all media enquiries contact:

Jo Lumani
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: J.P.Lumani@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2008 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top five universities in the UK, with 22 out of 30 of its subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. It was named winner of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other institution.

It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research-intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

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