Background: The 3-dimensionally complex interplay of soft tissue, cartilaginous, and bony elements makes the mastery of nasal anatomy difficult. Conventional methods of learning nasal anatomy exist, but they often involve a steep learning curve. Computerized models and virtual reality applications have been used to facilitate teaching in a number of other complex anatomical regions, such as the human temporal bone and pelvic floor. We present a 3-dimensional (3-D) virtual reality model of the human nose. Methods: Human cadaveric axial cross-sectional (0.33-mm cuts) photographic data of the head and neck were used. With 460 digitized images, individual structures were traced and programmed to create a computerized polygonal model of the nose. Further refinements to this model were made using a number of specialized computer programs. This 3-D computer model of the nose was then programmed to operate as a virtual reality model. Results: Anatomically correct 3-D model of the nose was produced. High-resolution images of the "virtual nose" demonstrate the nasal septum, lower lateral cartilages, middle vault, bony dorsum, and other structural details of the nose. Also, the model can be combined with a separate virtual reality model of the face and its skin cover as well as the skull. The user can manipulate the model in space, examine 3-D anatomical relationships, and fade superficial structures to reveal deeper ones. Conclusions: The virtual nose is a 3-D virtual reality model of the nose that is accurate and easy to use. It can be run on a personal computer or in a specialized virtual reality environment. It can serve as an effective teaching tool. As the first virtual reality model of the nose, it establishes a virtual reality platform from which future applications can be launched.
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