• Lucille Solomon

Interactive 3D Models of the Spina bifida



I was asked by the Swiss surgeon Prof. Dr. Meuli from the Childrens Hospital in Zürich to produce two 3D models on the topic Spina bifida. The Spina bifida (split spine) is a development congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube. Because some vertebrae are not fully formed, remaining unfused and open, a part of the spinal cord protrudes through that opening.

There are three categories of the Spina bifida: spina bifida occulta, spina bifida cystica with meningocele, and spina bifida cystica with myelomeningocele. Prof. Dr. Meuli wanted me to make a 3D model of the most significant and common form Myelomeningocele. If left untreated, this form usually leads to hydrocephalus, bladder dysfunction and a life in a wheelchair.


Spina bifida can be surgically closed after birth, but this does not restore normal function to the affected part of the spinal cord. But Prof. Dr. Meuli is specialized in Intrauterine surgery He is one of the world’s first to preform surgery on unborn children with the Spina bifida condition in the womb of the mother. Three years ago, he sucsessfully preformed surgery on an unborn child suffering from Spina bifida, in the womb for the first time. A challenge considering these patients are only 400 to 500 grams and the organs of course accordingly small. Very challenging also is finding the way to the tiny patient through the abdomen of the mother, uterus and amniotic sac, that must regain normal functioning after surgery.

Prof. Dr. Meuli wished for a interactive 3D Model, which he himself could turn, zoom in and out and turn on and turn off different layers, like the skin, the muscles ect. Further he wished for a longitudinal sectional view he also could turn on and off. Two models had to me made to first show the patients parents how exactly their childs condition looks like from every angle, to ensure their full understanding of the Spina bifida Myelomeningocele. After explaining the current state he then can show the post operative model. Here he can explain how the surgery is preformed and what to expect of the outcome.

It defiantly was a challenge creating these models, because the existing illustrations of the condition where extremely flat and 2 dimensional and no help at all. The models had to be developed through conversations, sketches and lots of tweaking until they were exactly how the Professor imagined. Nevertheless working with Prof. Dr. Meuli was a pleasure. He always was in a cheerful mood and his courage to innovation and to change the current state of mind in the field of surgery was extremely inspiering. I learnt a huge amount and having the Professor using and presenting the models on his laptop exactly as he imagined in the very beginning was very rewarding.

A few captions of the 3d models:


Stationsstrasse 28, 4600 Olten, Switzerland

Medizinische Illustration Lucille Solomon Medical Illustration
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