3D printing in surgery: the groundwork for a paradigm change in personalized surgical treatment

Dietmar W. Hutmacher, 3DMedLIVE Advisory Board member and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine, reflects on how 3D printing is set to disrupt todays surgical practice.

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Dietmar W. Hutmacher, 3DMedLIVE Advisory Board member and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine, reflects on how 3D printing is set to disrupt todays surgical practice. 

3D printing technology - or the by industry preferred term, additive manufacturing - is going to transform medicine today, whether it is via patient-specific surgical models or custom-made prosthetics. Personalized on-demand medicines and bioprinting of scaffold and/or bioink cell constructs, however, need at least another decade to demonstrate clinical significance.

 Studies of surgeons using 3D printed models to rehearse procedures have shown that both complex and more routine operations can be carried out more efficiently and with less trauma for patients.

Anatomical models are designed first in silico from patient scans by using advanced software technology platforms and then additively manufactured, thereby allowing the surgeons to perfect their corrective methods before entering the operating theatre. The physical, spatial and tactile benefits of a 3D physical model can increase preparedness and reduce time in surgery. The potential cost savings alone are considerable. The running of an operating theatre in a university hospital can cost between AUS$3,000–5000 an hour. Today’s 3D printing of anatomical models can simulate everything from soft tissue and muscles to cartilage and bone in a single print job. The model design can even combine clear materials to allow the clinical team an unobstructed view of hidden tissues and blood vessels. 

A virtual surgery plan is only advantageous when the clinical team can translate it to the operation theatre. An effective way to do so is by using surgical guides. Surgical guides provide the surgeons with assistance for determining exactly where and how to cut. This not only provides patients with the personalized treatment that is the best for them specifically, but also simplifies the procedure for the surgeons. There are several advantages of using surgical guides including accuracy, the simplicity and  benefit of preplanning the surgery, reduced blood loss, reduced risk of fat embolism, reduced risk of infection, less equipment necessary compared to other techniques, less of a learning curve, reduced operating time and reduced radiation exposure 

Yet, the immediate overall challenge in 3D printing in medicine is ensuring that medical professionals themselves are up to speed with the cutting edge of the  technology, because it is their clinical experience that will be needed to drive the translation from using the technology for treatment of special clinical cases into routine clinical application. 

The 3DMedLIVE conference will be an excellent platform to demonstrate that 3D printing technology enables more effective patient consultations, increases diagnostic quality, improves surgical planning, acts as an orientation aid during surgery and provides a template for surgical resection. The conference will involve leaders in the field presenting on how todays 3D printing technology has the potential to be very valuable to clinicians for delivering and performing patient-specific individualized surgery. 

3DMedLIVE 2019: 3D printing in surgery

Event, Future Science Group

2–3 October 2019 l London (UK). Convening a community of innovation and best practice around surgical applications of 3D printing. Watch the ‘3DMedLIVE network’ room, watch our profile or follow @3DMedNet and #3DMedLIVE19 on Twitter for the latest updates. www.3dmedlive.com

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