KCAL 9 News: Medical Models

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"You've seen many of his creations on TV and in the movies, now see how this special effects wizard keeps the medical field on the cutting edge." We see Rick demonstrating his Waldo® invention. Inside this converted warehouse in Canoga Park, this modern day magician takes steel and plastic and makes them approximate life. "You find the genius behind what makes living things work, and how they work", says Rick. This is the part he enjoys about making these things. Rick demonstrates the large dog head from the movie "The Sandlot". We see a clip of the part of that movie in which this puppet is used. Then we see a clip from the Foster Farms Chickens commercial.

Rick demonstrates how the wings of the chicken puppets are articulated. "Lazzarini puts the same love and care into each of his creations, whether they are cartoony or realistic." Rick shows us a bass fish puppet that was created for a beer commercial. The commercial features a baseball game being played with the fish instead of a baseball. We see a clip from that commercial. Rick explains what different movements were built into the puppet; tail waggles, eyes pop out, gills pop out, and mouth opens.

"But in the midst of this menagerie, The Character Shop is embarking on a new direction." Rick shows his different models, a suture model, and a hernia model. Rick's models are being used by surgeons to practice the difficult task of micro surgery. Dr. Stephen Shapiro feels that this is Rick's best work. Dr. Steven Shapiro trains surgeons in the latest micro surgery techniques. In the past, micro surgery was practiced on live pigs. We see Dr. Shapiro demonstrate the use of the model. He works on the model through a special trainer box, and we can see him making stitches, on a video monitor. Lazzarini's models are so life-like that real animals can be spared.

Dr. Shapiro explains how Rick developed models of the stomach and the esophagus. He states how Rick simulates the feel of the actual tissue; we can see on the model how soft and flexible it is. "They are so life-like that they are being used around the world, which makes Lazzarini proud." "We are usually creating something to entertain somebody, or sell a product; in the case of the medical models, we use the same techniques and materials, but we're indirectly helping to heal someone", Lazzarini states. "There's something a bit more ennobling about that."

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KTTV Good Day L.A.: Medical Models

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"Imagine a surgery that is less painful, leaves less scars, and reduces recuperation time." Medical editor Tom Linden explains how endoscopic surgery works. It is basically surgery without a knife. It is performed through small holes in the body, and uses tiny TV cameras that transmit images to a video screen, allowing the doctors to see their movements to perform surgery. The breakthrough is the use of specially designed models to help doctors practice the technique.

Rick demonstrates how doctors would plastic surgery endoscopically with a head model with a removable face. We see a model of a knee, which will be used to train doctors for endoscopic knee surgery.

Tom Linden interviews Dr. Stephen Shapiro live. He asks the doctor how they practiced the training before the models were created. Dr. Shapiro explains that the training was practiced on animals. "There is a whole curricula of training for both the attending surgeon, and the resin surgeon. The curricula includes a more experienced surgeon, proctoring, and scrubbing with the less experienced surgeon, so that the patient is operated on safely." Linden asks Dr. Shapiro to show and explain the models he has brought. He shows us a model designed and manufactured by The Character Shop, and defines its anatomy. "We see the liver which looks deep red in color. The green, roundish object in the middle is the gall bladder. We see the cystic duct, which is the duct that connects the gall bladder to the common duct. Bile is made from the liver, and goes into the intestines through that duct."

Linden explains: "The most common problem with this part of the anatomy are stones, which would need to be removed, or have the bile removed. Many patients get stones in their common duct and this model helps the doctors improve their technique in removing those stones from the duct." Linden asks Dr. Shapiro to explain how this model is used. Stones are placed in the model through the back, and then the model is placed in a trainer box. Then a tube with a small camera is placed in the cystic duct, and the surgeons use tiny tools to remove the stones. By placing the tiny optic tube into the model of the cystic duct, doctors have a sense of the human body without the need to practice on humans. "4-6 hours of practice on the model will get the surgeon ready to go right into a person safely."

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KNBC News at 4: Medical Models

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"Hollywood special effects have now made it to the operating table", says Dr. Bruce Hensel, M.D., explaining how the models help refine surgery. After viewing a few brief clips from some effects-oriented films, we see inside the workshop of Rick Lazzarini. We see shop artists sculpting and painting different projects. Dr. Stephen Shapiro explains: "The doctors learn to cut specific muscles to move the brow upwardly to decrease scarring."

Rick explains how different it is to make a puppet for a movie, versus making a medical model. "When we make a puppet for a movie, we have to make it look good on the outside. But when we when we do the medical models, we have to make them look good on the inside". "The models are anatomically correct", Dr. Bruce explains, "they are used to practice on for many different operations." We see Character Shop employees working on two severed heads. Dr. Shapiro lists all the different types of surgery that the models are used for; general surgery, plastic surgery, gynecological surgery, and orthopedic surgery. Dr. Hensel expounds on what the future of medical technology may bring us.

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FOX 11 News: Medical Models

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Beginning with a few clips from Ghostbusters II, the reporter asks how the creatures from that movie can help doctors improve surgery techniques. "With the breakthrough of endoscopic surgery, patients have less pain, less scars, and shorter hospital stays." The camera catches a wide shot of the inside of Rick Lazzarini's Character Shop. We see employees working on an elephant head for Disney's Operation Dumbo Drop. "The Character Shop makes creatures for movies and TV, from large, life-size elephants to mini-animatronic reindeer." We see clips from different commercials, from the Foster Farms Chickens to the Miller Surfing cow. Rick Lazzarini is introduced, and he shows some of his creations from past projects; the Sarah Jessica Parker and the Bette Midler puppets from Disney's Hocus Pocus, and several severed heads from the movie Ghostbusters II. We see that famous clip of our ghostbusting heroes in the underground train station as they are confronted by a gaggle of gruesome heads.

"Doctors have turned to Rick and his crew to create life-like models to practice surgery." Rick explains how you need to have materials that are flesh-like, and how no one knows about that better than special effects practitioners. "You need materials that simulate flesh realistically", Rick states. "Dr. Stephen Shapiro and Dr. Leo Gordon recruited Rick Lazzarini to craft their models for endoscopic practice." Dr. Shapiro explains with one of his models, how a certain material is made to simulate a certain part of the body. Rick had to experiment with twenty-seven types of materials until the doctors found one that felt right. Once complete, the model is placed in a special training box. The Doctors use the same tools that they would use to perform the surgery. Doctors watch their movements with tiny TV cameras inside the body, which transmit those images on a nearby video screen. Dr. Gordon states: "This is the cheapest way for the surgeon to learn the skill". This technique is more beneficial to the patient, who is left with small scars, is more comfortable, and recovers quickly."

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