Background: The surgical anatomy of the pelvis is highly complex. In case of rectal cancer the surgeon is challenged to perform a total mesorectal excision (TME) warranting complete removal of the tumor and preservation of the autonomic nerves. However, incomplete TME specimens and surgical damage to the nerves are still part of clinical reality. A highly-detailed 3D pelvic model would be an excellent tool to increase anatomical knowledge of the surgical anatomy of the pelvis. Visible Human Datasets (VHDs) are often used to create a 3D model, but they lack anatomical detail such as autonomic nerves and fasciae. Immunohistochemistry is an ideal method to study those key surgical structures at microscopic level. Recently, the Unified Anatomical Human (UAH) has been developed. UAH integrates heterogeneous anatomical data and will allow registration of patient-specific diagnostic images. In this study, we describe the development of The Virtual Surgical Pelvis (VSP) and its potential clinical value in anatomical education and surgical simulation.Material and methods: We selected 910 slices from a VHD that comprised the entire pelvis. All surgically relevant anatomical structures were manually segmented using Amira® software and three-dimensionally reconstructed using the UAH. The Online Anatomical Human (OAH), an online web-viewer, was developed as well. Paraffin embedded mega blocks of 1 female cadaveric pelvic exenteration specimen were sliced in transverse sections of 5 μm. A series was stained with Hematoxylin & Eosin and Masson’s Trichome and selected sections were immunohistochemically stained with S100, a pan-neuron marker. The autonomic nerves and fasciae were manually segmented in Amira® software, three-dimensionally reconstructed and integrated using the UAH.Results: Currently, the VSP presents most of the essential surgical anatomy of the pelvis, including the levator ani muscle and pudendal nerve, and can be interactively visualized in the UAH and OAH. Microscopic analysis of the female cadaveric specimen reveals the organization of autonomic nerves and fasciae in relation to pelvic organs.Conclusion: The VSP showing the complex pelvic anatomy is a potentially excellent tool for anatomical education. Registration of the VSP to patient-specific diagnostic images allows visualization of key surgical structures such as autonomic nerves and fasciae in relation to pelvic viscera. This makes surgical simulation a nearby future goal for all pelvic surgeons. No conflict of interest.
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