Microscope And Display

A Superior Lab for Temporal Bone Dissection

Following is a description of the Temporal Bone Dissection Lab at our hearing center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's written by Dr. Sam Levine.

Lab Description

The Temporal Bone Dissection Lab was finished around 1995. It was built with three sequential grants from the Lions that totaled about $250,000. I started the process in 1990. At the time that it was built, it had state-of-the-art air handling to remove dust and viral particles in the air. The vents go to the top of the PWB and vent to the outside. It is the first temporal bone lab with an integrated video system on all microscopes in the lab. There is a video record system that can be taped from all the microscopes, and that was first done here.

The lab has a total of ten stations. To ease cleaning and minimize cost, each station uses a Pyrex pan to contain water, dust, and tissue. These are easy to replace at low-cost retailers, and by using them; we kept cost down and avoided custom-made cabinets.

Ear Examination


Inside the center utility chamber is all of the electrical, low-pressure water, suction, and air. The drains are all glass so that they can tolerate the chemicals used to preserve the human tissue. The center utility alone was $70,000. Each microscope was acquired through trading old equipment and using some rehabbed parts. The cost per scope was $20,000. Today, used, they are worth almost double that. The microscopes are mounted on custom-made poles from Minnetonka Boat Works that were contributed to the cause at a reduced rate.

Drills for otologic surgery are duplicates for the equipment used in our OR. These are the last generation drills and were donated by a supplier. The temporal bones are donated to the medical school and are removed from the rest of the body for dissection here. They are returned and matched to the original donor prior to cremation. Cremains are interred at the cemetery in the city.


The implantable hearing aid company Envoy began in this lab. They built a duplicate to it in their facility in White Bear Lake. A robotic scrub nurse was built here. A company called Oncostim built a prototype for cancer treatment using this lab. When they started, it was not going to be for cancer treatment but brain surgery. Research on imaging the ear was done here to reveal details on MRI that were first seen on our lab.


Since the construction of this lab, we were the first medical center to also use this kind of lab to teach neurosurgery and audiologists. The courses in the lab have educated neurosurgeons, otologists, and otolaryngologists in the state and nation. The lab is also used to teach medical students the basic anatomy of the ear, and this is the first medical school to do this.

Lions International

Thank You, Lions!

Recently, there was a discussion about moving the lab. It was classified as a "critical lab" in the medical school. This is a far cry from where I started when I was developing the lab. Dr. George Adams was overwhelmed by the cost of the lab and thought of it as a luxury item. At one point during the development, he insisted that I discuss the cost in terms of pancakes. He would say, "How many pancakes are we going to ask these Lions to flip to pay for this item or that?" It was humbling.

I want to personally thank every Lion who helped us. Your faith and support for this idea has positively influenced hundreds of doctors and audiologists, spawned businesses, and improved the health and well-being of thousands of people. The Lions here in Minnesota are a great group of wonderful people who are doing terrific work to improve the lives of people here and everywhere.