A cadaver laboratory for instruction in neurosurgical anatomy was established in 2000 at the VA Hospital, in order to allow residents hands-on instruction in surgical approaches. In this laboratory, each resident dissects a cadaver head and neck for the purpose of practicing standard neurosurgical approaches, typically during the VA rotation.
Procedures include anterior and posterior approaches to the cervical spine, pterional craniotomy, cavernous sinus approaches, midline posterior fossa procedures (including access by the supracerebellar route to the pineal), and retrosigmoid operations. Time permitting, dissections also include the skullbase, transcallosal and bifrontal procedures. Standard surgical tools and equipment are used in these dissections, including an operating microscope, drills, etc.
The neurosurgical anatomy curriculum includes a didactic talk prior to each dissection with emphasis on the relevant clinical and surgical anatomy. Talks during this rotation also include didactic sessions on brain and spinal cord anatomy, CSF, cerebral blood flow, etc., with the appropriate physiology involved. In 2013, the neurosurgical anatomy laboratory moved to the Department of Anatomy at the Medical School.
As an adjunct to the hands-on anatomy laboratory, one of our current residents, Dr. Luis Savastano, has been performing high-quality brain and spinal cord dissections in latex-injected specimens for both research and didactic purposes. These beautifully preserved specimens complement the rich surgical anatomy experience within the neurosurgical residency.