Advanced vascular models for surgical education, training and diagnosis

Study level


Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Mark Allenby
Postdoctoral Research Fellow (AQF)
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Professor Mia Woodruff
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty

External supervisors

  • Dr Nigel Pinto, Vascular Surgeon


Vascular surgery is Australia’s second-most expensive surgical program, primarily due to an aging population with increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, representing 29% of all deaths in 2017.

Surgical decision-making regarding whether, when and how to operate on a patient relies on the clinicians’ analysis of 2D and 3D reconstructed images on a computer screen in either the endovascular suite or the operating room.

Further, endovascular surgeries require skillful and rapid deployment of vascular prosthetics through tortuous, patient-specific geometries to safety, effectively and predictably prop open vessels and improve natural blood flow. The success in the deployment of these stents, especially near critical organs, is reliant on expensive surgical experience and training.

Advanced manufacturing technologies, such as virtual reality and 3D printing, can improve surgical education, diagnosis, decision-making and pre-operative training. In fact, simulations and 3D printed models of patient medical images have demonstrated faster and more accurate diagnosis and more rapid surgical operations when compared to current 2D and 3D reconstructions visualised by clinicians on a computer screen.

In this project, medical image datasets of patients admitted to Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital will be leveraged to produce digital and physical aneurysm models using VR software and 3D printing. These models will be provided to surgical trainees to diagnose pathological features of interest or to practice catheter deployment of surgical stents in particularly complex cases. Student performance will be evaluated for 2D, 3D (on a computer screen), VR and 3D printed models.

Research activities

This project will develop your skills in computational and experimental technologies. These skills are useful in a variety of manufacturing industries.

These talents include:

  • a literature review of current pathology, surgical treatment, and research approaches
  • medical Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine-image (DICOM) reconstructions
  • a VR simulation of reconstructed cardiovascular diseases
  • 3D printing of vascular models for surgical diagnosis

You will be working with a talented team across the Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology group and the greater Herston Biofabrication Institute. This team includes physicists, engineers, mathematicians, biologists and the clinicians who are operating on the patients.

You will be able to attend surgeries and consultations and be expected to attend lab group meetings once per week alongside full time research.


This project has already been granted ethical approval for retrospective analyses of intracranial aneurysm cases and has access to dozens of patient medical records.

This project aims to develop a:

  • medical image 3D reconstruction, virtual reality simulation and 3D printing pipeline
  • trainee teaching and evaluation course to improve vascular surgery education.



Contact the supervisor, Dr Mark Allenby, for more information.