Neurosurgeon Uses Daughter's Head to Create Surgery Simulator

A new neurosurgical simulator designed to teach basic surgical techniques has been launched this month (November). Known as Rowena, the design of the two part plastic simulator was named after and modelled on the head of the inventor's own daughter.


Developed by practising neurosurgeon Richard Ashpole, FRCS of Neurodesign Ltd, Rowena stands for Realistic Operative Workstation for Educating Neurosurgical Apprentices. The surgical model consists of a moulded plastic base with internal skull anatomy on which is fixed a replaceable upper cranium with scalp, bone and dural layers. Inside the skull is a realistic plastic brain.

Richard used the head of his daughter Rowena, now aged 14, basing his designs for the model on her skull size and shape. The model was created in Wales by a company that normally works on special effects for big budget Hollywood movies

It was essential that the Rowena model be as close to a real skull as possible, both internally and externally, so it seemed logical to base the design on a real person, explains Richard. Fortunately my daughter was happy to help, and sat for over an hour and a half whilst the model makers did their work. Rowena has been developed over many months to ensure all layers of the cranium behave as realistically as possible. As a result, it offers a unique, cutting edge teaching aid to train the next generation of neurosurgeons.

Rowena has the ability to be used with a three point headrest to teach anatomical landmarks and positioning. The realistic scalp can be used with Raney clips to turn different flaps as well as standard burr holes and ICP monitoring devices. Rowena can also be drilled with a Hudson brace, or a Gigli saw and guide, as well as a variety of high speed drills. The underlying dura (complete with vascular markings) can then be hitched up and opened in various ways to expose the brain beneath. Bone flaps can be replaced and fixed with sutures or a variety of plates and screws.

For closure, the dura is sutured; the bone flap replaced and fixed with any proprietary fixation system and the scalp stapled. Fractures can be reproduced with a hammer and fragments can be elevated and fixed. Rowena is compatible with both CT and MRI and so can be used with neuro navigation systems to help plan surgical approaches.

These features make Rowena an affordable and comprehensive option for neurosurgical teaching departments, says Richard. We want to offer teaching hospitals a reusable option for training surgeons which reduces costs but doesn't compromise the quality of training.

Rowena is to be distributed by Staffordshire based company, Delta Surgical who work with clinicians to develop cost effective solutions, in order to enhance hospital efficiency, patient care and overall safety in operating theatres.

Richard Ashpole BSc MB BS FRCS is a consultant neurosurgeon at Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham. Richard was training programme director for neurosurgery from 2003 to 2010, and is on the panel of national selectors for neurosurgical training. An examiner for the FRCS neurosurgery exam as well as a member of the question writing panel, Richard has set up and runs a hands-on neurosurgical course in cervical arthroplasty. He also teaches on both the Royal College of Surgeons and Queens Medical Centre neurosurgery courses.

For more information Click Here call 07976 299303 or email richardashpole@btinternet.com.

To see a BBC news clip about Rowena Click Here.



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