A critical inventory of preoperative skull replicas

Jean H.D. Fasel, J. Beinemann, K. Schaller, P. Gailloud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION Physical replicas of organs are used increasingly for preoperative planning. The quality of these models is generally accepted by surgeons. In view of the strong trend towards minimally invasive and personalised surgery, however, the aim of this investigation was to assess qualitatively the accuracy of such replicas, using skull models as an example. METHODS Skull imaging was acquired for three cadavers by computed tomography using clinical routine parameters. After digital three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction, physical replicas were produced by 3D printing. The facsimilia were analysed systematically and compared with the best gold standard possible: the macerated skull itself. RESULTS The skull models were far from anatomically accurate. Non-conforming rendering was observed in particular for foramina, sutures, notches, fissures, grooves, channels, tuberosities, thin-walled structures, sharp peaks and crests, and teeth. CONCLUSIONS Surgeons should be aware that preoperative models may not yet render the exact anatomy of the patient under consideration and are advised to continue relying, in specific conditions, on their own analysis of the native computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-404
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2013


  • Anatomy
  • Preoperative replicas
  • Skull
  • Surgical planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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