Operable Robotic Throat Surgery Model

Preserve budget, increase training

The Challenge:

How can a medical device team provide a viable alternative to cadaveric tissue for training surgeons to use a new robotic surgical system that enables access to areas in the throat that have never been routinely accessed before?  The requirements for this model were to allow access, positioning, targeting, and cutting tissue deep within the throat.  Practicing surgeons, surgical fellows and surgical residents need to experience the anatomy visually and feel how the device reaches and interacts with the tissue during procedures. Further, this model needed to be developed for easy use in training, trade shows, congresses, and sales rep interactions, giving surgeons repeat practice with the actual device. Finally, the model had to highlight how our client’s robotic system easily treated hard to reach targets when all other instruments and surgical systems were linearly based and provided only limited access to these specific anatomical targets.


Model Design:

This Pulse MDM team was challenged to help the client provide an experience to their physicians using an inanimate model that was not easily accommodated:

  • Our client’s device provided access to targets that have highly complex shapes that could only be recreated by a master sculptor with in-depth knowledge of anatomy and prototyping processes. So, Pulse MDM digitally sculpted the tongue, teeth, soft palate, sinuses, uvula, tonsils, epiglottis, arytenoids, trachea, esophagus and vocal cords. It was one thing to sculpt anatomy but quite another to engineer them as separate parts that could be moldable and seamlessly assembled together.
  • Typical model materials are synthetic and cannot be operated on using electrocautery. To overcome this challenge for this client, Pulse MDM developed a concept we affectionately refer to as “the Meat Cartridge”. A small piece of bovine tongue placed in a plastic frame was inserted into the model at the exact place where the diseased portion of the tongue was located so it could be excised using mono-polar energy.  You may ask, why not use porcine or bovine to conduct the training as opposed to a small piece of strategically located bovine tongue? Animals do not have the same anatomical structures in the throat as humans and cannot be used to show the access and navigation benefits for this procedure. Pulse created the difficult to access human anatomy using durable, soft and squishy synthetic materials and capitalized on the properties of live tissue only where absolutely necessary allow for electrocautery.
  • The back of the tongue and the vocal cords needed to be easily and economically replaced after each simulated surgery for repeated use. Accordingly, Pulse MDM designed a cartridge to hold the small piece of bovine tongue purchased from any local butcher.  This was both easy to procure and inexpensive.
  • Since realistic jaw movement is difficult to make look life-like, (think ventriloquist dummies), Pulse MDM developed life-like, elastic facial skin to move with the fully articulated jaw.


Model Development:

The collaboration between Pulse MDM and the client, resulted in a model that was designed, refined and tested to  give surgeons the ability to perform surgical excisions repeatedly. Careful consideration was given to make the model durable for repeated use and to impart a visually professional appeal that reflected the client’s commitment to the highest level of professional physician education.


Model Solution:

All anatomical structures in the model were lifelike representations of the shapes and feel of live tissue and provided the physician the experience of navigating to, visualizing and treating diseases deep within the throat. Physicians could see the ease which the client’s robot facilitates the excision of cancers, removal of tongue tissue and fine work in the vocal cords.  A ‘flip up door’ in the neck made it easy to change out the cartridge that holds the excised bovine tissue or vocal cords so each surgeon couldexamine their results. New tissue could be added for multiple, fresh experiences for everysurgeon.  The model and all the tools necessary for demonstration and training were in an easy to ship transport case to facilitate use in tech suites, hotel conference rooms, exhibit halls, labs or hospitals.  Most medical models are merely three-dimensional illustrations of anatomy and not interactive.  Pulse Medical Demonstration Models makes realistic, operable models to help device manufacturers engage their doctors in a clinical experience.  You can’t buy that from Amazon!

Today, our client saves $60,000 every time they use this model for training as opposed to training in a cadaver lab.  And while cadavers provide the most realistic clinical experience, they cannot provide it on a repeated basis.  By contrast our model provides a realistic anatomical simulation and the ability conduct several surgical treatments easily and inexpensively.


Although this custom model is not available for sale to the public, we are delighted to make you a version unique to your medical device and procedure. Please use this link to start the process of receiving a model concept that is a visual representation of how clinicians and patients will experience your product and procedure. Pulse MDM does not charge for model concepts or the conversations around them so there is no risk to see how we can help you to tell your story in the most engaging and memorable way possible.


Robotic Throat Surgery Procedure Overview: 

Robotic surgery in the head and intended for robot-assisted visualization and surgical site access to the oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx for the excision of cancers, removal of tongue tissue, fine work on the vocal cords.  This robotic system allows surgeons to define a non-linear path to achieve exposure difficult or impossible to achieve with for minimally invasive or straight approaches.