Imaging techniques assist the surgeon in diagnosis of disease, surgical planning, and providing image guidance during surgery. Endoscopy has the drawback of being a minimally invasive procedure and limiting visualization to the inner surface of the lumen. Ultrasound, CT, and MR imaging show volumes of tissue beyond the lumen wall; however, their planar, two- dimensional representations require mental reconstruction of anatomic structures, which often proves difficult with the small, complex structures within the temporal bone. To improve three-dimensional visualization of the inner ear, we successfully completed a virtual model that can be displayed as a contiguous, three-dimensional luminal view, known as virtual otoscopy, which emulates traditional endoscopy. A concomitant global view and a view of the related CT slice adds a distinct advantage in the presentation and study of this complex organ. Advances in computer and software technology may overcome the time and cost factors that, at present, limit widespread use of virtual otoscopy. Overall, virtual otoscopy stands as a promising new visualization technique for elucidation of the middle ear, inner ear, and temporal bone structures.
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