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The Use of Patient-Specific Three-Dimensional Printed Surgical Models Enhances Plastic Surgery Resident Education in Craniofacial Surgery

Lobb, David C., MD; Cottler, Patrick, PhD; Dart, Dwight, MS; Black, Jonathan S., MD, FACS

doi: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000005322
Original Articles

Purpose: A significant challenge in surgical education is to provide a meaningful hands-on experience with the pathology the trainee will see in independent practice. Craniofacial anatomy is challenging and unfamiliar to the learner.

Methods: Using preoperative computed tomography data, the authors produced an accurately sized, three-dimensional (3D) printed model of the congenital craniofacial anatomy of patients treated by the same attending surgeon–PGY4 resident surgeon pair over the course of a 6-month rotation. A preoperative stepwise surgical plan was written by the attending and resident, and the plan was marked on the 3D model by the attending and resident separately. The written and marked plans were measured for accuracy and time to completion. The resident surgeon's applicable milestone levels were assessed.

Results: Seven congenital craniofacial anomalies met criteria for inclusion: 4 craniosynostosis cases, 2 mandibular distractions, and 1 LeFort I distraction. The number of inaccuracies of the written plan improved from 5 to 0 for sagittal synostosis and 4 to 0 for mandibular distraction. The time to complete the written plan decreased by 22% for sagittal synostosis and 45% for mandibular distraction. The number of inaccuracies of the marked plan decreased from 5 to 0 for sagittal synostosis and 2 to 0 for mandibular distraction. Time to completion of the marked plan decreased by 76% for sagittal synostosis and 50% for mandibular distraction. Milestone scores increased an average of 1.875 levels.

Conclusion: Three-dimensional printed craniofacial models are a positive addition to resident training and have been objectively quantified to improve the accuracy and time to completion of the surgical plan as well as progression in the plastic surgery milestones.

Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Jonathan S. Black, MD, FACS, Department of Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery, University of Virginia Health Systems, West Complex, Fourth Floor, 1300 Jefferson Park Ave., Charlottesville, VA 22908; E-mail:

Received 17 July, 2018

Accepted 24 December, 2018

Sources of funding: University of Virginia Graduate, Medical Education Innovation Grant.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

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© 2019 by Mutaz B. Habal, MD.