Endovascular neurosurgery is an evolving field, with the goal of treating neurological disease with minimal invasion of the body. The current approach is to deliver focused therapies via catheters traveling through the vascular tree. Refinement and advancement of these techniques requires not just new ideas, but new ideas that hold up when tested through the scientific method.

Before clinical trials can begin, ethics and law demand that the ideas are tested first under experimental models. One benefit of these pre-clinical tests is the early identification of side effects. Another is the opportunity to practice and polish surgical technique in advance of human surgery.

Historically, the best models of human systems have been similar systems in appropriate animals. Like human care, animal use is governed by strict laws and regulations. Violating these rules can not only result in criminal penalties, they can also make the research worthless: an animal poorly cared for may have physical symptoms that mask or confound the response to treatment.

As computing power has increased, mathematical models have become more popular. The advantages of computational models include relative costs and relative speed. No animals, drugs or equipment have to be purchased, just a computer and software. The disadvantage is that the computational model can only represent those aspects of the modeled system that are understood and quantifiable.

This article is an overview of how both animal and computational models have been used to approximate neurovascular conditions by researchers seeking to explore treatment options.

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