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3D printing the pterygopalatine fossa: a negative space model of a complex structure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ross Bannon, Shivani Parihar, Yiannis Skarparis, Ourania Varsou, Enis Cezayirli

School/Research organisations


Purpose: The pterygopalatine fossa is one of the most complex anatomical regions to understand. It is poorly visualized in cadaveric dissection and most textbooks rely on schematic depictions. We describe our approach to creating a low-cost, 3D model of the pterygopalatine fossa, including its associated canals and foramina, using an affordable “desktop” 3D printer.
Methods:  We used open source software to create a volume render of the pterygopalatine fossa from axial slices of a head computerised tomography scan. These data were then exported to a 3D printer to produce an anatomically accurate model.
Results:  The resulting ‘negative space’ model of the pterygopalatine fossa provides a useful and innovative aid for understanding the complex anatomical relationships of the pterygopalatine fossa.
Conclusion: This model was designed primarily for medical students; however, it will also be of interest to postgraduates in ENT, ophthalmology, neurosurgery, and radiology. The technical process described may be replicated by other departments wishing to develop their own anatomical models whilst incurring minimal costs.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-191
Number of pages7
JournalSurgical and Radiologic Anatomy
Issue number2
Early online date30 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

    Research areas

  • Pterygopalatine fossa, 3D printing, Anatomy education, Model and simulation, 3D imaging techniques, Computed tomography

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