Barrow Global Brings Neurosurgery Course to Latin America

Barrow Neurological Institute led an innovative course on neurosurgical anatomy and techniques in Lima, Peru, earlier this month as part of the Barrow Global initiative.

The acclaimed course reached 120 people from the Latin American countries of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. Forty of the participants gained hands-on neurosurgical training, thanks to 3D-printed models and a virtual reality system developed at Barrow specifically for the event.

3D-printed skull model
A course participant practices neurosurgical techniques on a 3D-printed model of the skull. Barrow developed 40 models specifically for the course.

“We filled the seats for the hands-on part in the laboratory immediately after opening the announcement,” said Arnau Benet, MD, a PGY-6 neurosurgery resident at Barrow who directed the course. “I have felt the eagerness to learn from and about Barrow constantly. We inspire a huge community that exists just below Yuma down to Patagonia.”

The robust models of the skull imitated bone, brain tissue, veins, and cranial nerves. Much of Latin America does not have access to human cadavers for surgical simulation, Dr. Benet explained.

“When I designed this neurosurgical anatomy course, I realized that we needed to innovate a system to allow for hands-on practice,” he said. “Barrow is a bottomless tank of resources, so I connected the dots.”

Dr. Benet had already been working with Neuroscience Publications medical modeler/animator Dani VanBrabant on a virtual anatomy model. The two of them collaborated with Dakota Graham, a research engineer in the Thurston Innovation Center, to bring the concept to life.

Their teamwork resulted in a first-of-its-kind fully integrated model, enabling the simulation of emergent hemicraniectomies and pterional, orbitozygomatic, retrosigmoid, and far lateral approaches. Barrow shipped the models to Peru ahead of the course.

Additionally, Dr. Benet coordinated with Ryan Ehredt, medical virtual reality developer in the Neuroscience Publications department at Barrow, to develop a virtual reality system based on a specific subdural hematoma case seen in Peru.

A screen shot from a virtual reality system for neurosurgery education
A screen shot shows a virtual reality system designed to simulate surgery for a subdural hematoma.

“This virtual reality platform helped attendees understand anatomy and anticipate surgical steps during the hands-on sessions,” Dr. Benet said.

Barrow President and CEO Michael T. Lawton, MD, and Barrow Global Medical Director Dilan Ellegala, MD, also provided lectures for the course.

The audience included experts from the Peruvian College of Medicine and the Peruvian Society of Neurosurgery, as well as local government officials and journalists.

“Barrow is regarded as the cathedral of neurosurgical excellence, and they are explicitly grateful every day,” Dr. Benet said. “I am experiencing a huge privilege of inspiring people that so much needed this event.”