Canadian medical doctors Adnan Sheikh and Bruce B. Forster examine the growing importance of 3D printed models and instruments like surgical tools, outlined in the recently published ‘Holding It in Your Hand’’: Musculoskeletal Applications of 3D Printing.’
Noting the impacts digital fabrication offers to the medical realm, the authors see 3D printing as one of the ‘fastest growing technologies,’ currently revolutionizing many medical practices—and operating rooms.
3D printed medical models are in a category all their own, offering benefits on so many different levels. Doctors and surgeons are able to better diagnose health issues, from tumors to aneurysms and much more. With visual aids like patient-specific models, medical professionals can also offer much more comprehensive preoperative education to patients. 3D printed models also offer enormous value in training medical students, along with assisting in surgical planning.
Sheikh and Forster go on to explain the impacts 3D printing is also offering in the creation of countless medical devices today, from that of prosthetics that can be completely customized to patients affordably and quickly, along with so many different types of implants that are not only improving the quality of life for many—but sometimes saving their lives altogether.
Bioprinting is a huge field today also:
“The promise of creating living tissues is just being realized; tissue scaffolds can be 3D printed, on which cellular tissue can be implanted and then used to promote cellular growth, remodeling, and regeneration of bone and cartilage,” explain the authors.
“In the recent years, there has been an increase in hospital-based 3D printing facilities producing medical models. Imagine an ink jet printer that, rather than spraying out ink in the shape of letters, sprays out solid material like plastic or metal in the shape of a tooth, femur, or a joint prosthesis.”
3D printing of surgical tools is an area that is growing in popularity for surgeons also. While the obvious benefits of 3D printing continue to abound, Sheikh and Forster remind us that in some cases the technology may not be as affordable—or accessible—as presumed. 3D printed models and tools though, in the hospital setting, can offer surgeons ‘an unprecedented level of reassurance, confidence, and clarity in complex surgeries.’ The authors cite data stating that 3D printed models can decrease surgery times substantially.
Image Credit: Bridget O’Neal / 3DPRINT.COM