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What is a Vestibuloholic?

Dr. Danielle Gross PT, DPT

If you try to Google the term "Vestibuloholic", the search page will auto-correct you to "Vestibulocollic Reflex" which in itself is an entirely different thing. I first heard the term as a doctor of physical therapy student while on 10 week clinical with a Vestibular Specialist (ahem... Jeff Walter PT, DPT, NCS) at the Otolaryngology Vestibular and Balance Center at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA. Jeff Walter first coined the term, and it has stuck with me ever since.

I think there are many ways to describe what makes someone a "Vestibuloholic". Perhaps they have Google alerts activated to notify them when new research or articles are published. Maybe they think to themselves "YES!" when they lie a patient back on a treatment table and their patient starts to experience miserable symptoms of vertigo. It may also be possible that they spend hours making model-clay inner ears, complete with rings for otoconia, as well as matching t-shirts for themselves and their co-workers before attending a weekend vestibular course. They could even be reading a blog like this one to see what others are thinking and learning about the vestibular system and therapy techniques. Can YOU relate to anything like that? I hope so!

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So how did we get to 3D printed inner ear models? The idea for this model came about in a Neurology class while still in school. Dr. Kristina Dorkoski PT, DPT, PVT, CPI and Dr. Heather Fritz PT, DPT (with the idea from Dr. Maureen Romanow Pascal PT, DPT, NCS) had us use pipe cleaners and rings to depict semicircular canals and the movement of otoconia displaced in the canals. I carried this lesson with me past graduation, through continuing education classes, and into patient education in the clinic.

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Finding an affordable and functional model similar to the pipe cleaners proved to be difficult, so I started with cheap modeling clay. I found it even more difficult to determine the correct angles and proportionate sizes of the canals. Not to mention that the models fell apart in less than a day. About a year later I found the NIH 3D Print Exchange Program. The National Institutes of Health utilized imaging from an MRI to construct a 3D printable model of a patient's vestibular organ.

I found it so interesting to see how the diameters of the canals change, how the canals connect to the utricle, and how they are configured next to one another. It is anything but the smooth and perfect version of the organs seen in textbooks or on models.

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The original 3D printing file from NIH was rough and included some extra components that, for this purpose, I wanted to remove. I contacted 3D Brooklyn and worked with Will and Trey who have guided me through many different versions of varying sizes, edits, and materials. I even had the opportunity to visit their operation in Brooklyn, NY. To say that I was amazed by what they're doing would be an understatement.  The world of 3D printing is incredibly fascinating, innovative, and wide open with possibilities for outstanding creators like those working at 3D Brooklyn. Will and Trey have been so easy to work with, and they seemed to have the same level of excitement I had for this project. Thanks guys for helping make this idea a reality!

This entire project would not have even been possible without the partnership and support of Dr. Bill Rolle PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS with FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Rockville, MD. He has been there every single step of the way to offer his help whenever needed. He is the most generous, knowledgeable, and understanding employer who always puts his patients and employees first. In the year that I have worked for him, I have been able to pursue almost every vestibular idea or project that I felt passionate about with him cheering me on and giving me the platform and tools needed to succeed. Without Dr. Rolle, as well as my awesome co-workers, the Functional Inner Ear may have never become a reality.