A New Paradigm in Cleft Lip Procedural Excellence: Creation and Preliminary Digital Validation of a Lifelike Simulator

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Summary:Simulation is becoming an increasingly important tool for hands-on surgical education in a no-risk environment. Cleft lip repair is a common procedure where precise technique is needed to achieve optimal outcome, making it an ideal candidate for simulation. A digital simulated patient with a typical unilateral complete cleft lip and alveolus was constructed using existing three-dimensional imaging studies. Key surface and internal anatomical elements were characterized in detail. A prototype high-fidelity simulator was constructed with silicone and synthetic polymers over a supportive scaffold, piloted by three surgeons using multiple techniques, and digitally compared to real patients. All surgeons completed key steps of a cleft lip repair on the simulator and found it approximated the haptics and anatomy of a cleft lip. Surface change and anthropometric movements accomplished on the simulator were similar for all three surgeons. In digital comparison to analogous real patient data, the simulator anthropometric movements and topographic change were similar to real nasolabial movement. A high-fidelity cleft lip simulator provides “on-demand” opportunity to realistically practice all steps of a cleft lip repair, with implications for overcoming volume-outcome relationship challenges of diminishing operative experience for resident surgeons.

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