Computer-Assisted Three-Dimensional Reconstruction of Head and Neck Tumors

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Because head and neck tumors reside in a complex area, having a three-dimensional (3-D) model of the patient's unique anatomical features may assist in the delineation of pathology. The authors describe a new computer technique of 3-D anatomical reconstruction from two-dimensional computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) data and discuss how it represents a step forward in the continuing evolution of 3-D imaging.

Study Design:

The authors selected three patients with solitary head and neck tumors and reconstructed their anatomy in a 3-D format for study. The tumors represented locations in the nose and central skull base (patient 1), temporal bone (patient 2), and neck (patient 3).

Materials and Methods:

MR and CT images from the individual patients were electronically transferred to workstations in the Surgical Planning Laboratory of the authors' institution. Registration (or fusion) was carried out between the MR and CT images. The desired anatomic components underwent segmentation (identification and isolation). Assembly of the segmented images was performed and the resulting structures were integrated to produce a 3-D model.


3-D models of the following were constructed and displayed in an interactive format on high-capacity computer workstations: 1) a skull base sarcoma with extension into the nasopharynx and nose; 2) an acoustic neuroma with internal auditory canal involvement; and 3) a metastatic recurrence of a tongue base squamous cell carcinoma in the posterior triangle of the right side of the neck with extension to the skull base.


The authors' Surgical Planning Laboratory has developed a 3-D reconstruction technique that has several new features. The models provided a very good 3-D interactive representation of the tumors and patient anatomy. The need now exists to develop this method of 3-D reconstruction of head and neck tumors for potential applications in treatment, research, and medical education.

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