Objective: In surgical procedures for cleft lip, surgeons attempt to use various skin incisions and small flaps to achieve a better and more natural shape postoperatively. They must understand the three-dimensional (3D) structure of the lips. However, they may have difficulty learning the surgical procedures precisely from normal textbooks with two-dimensional illustrations. Recent developments in 3D computed tomography (3D-CT) and laser stereolithography have enabled surgeons to visualize the structures of cleft lips from desired viewpoints. However, this method cannot reflect the advantages offered by specific surgical procedures. To solve this problem, we used the benefits offered by 3D computer graphics (3D-CG) and 3D animation. Design and Results: By using scanning 3D-CT image data of patients with cleft lips, 3D-CG models of the cleft lips were created. Several animations for surgical procedures such as incision designs, rotation of small skin flaps, and sutures were made. This system can recognize the details of an operation procedure clearly from any viewpoint, which cannot be acquired from the usual textbook illustrations. This animation system can be used for developing new skin-flap design, understanding the operational procedure, and using tools in case presentations. The 3D animations can also be uploaded to the World Wide Web for use in teleconferencing.
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