In a past post, we explored how 3D printing was helping to advance the world of medicine with 3D-printed organs. The latest reports demonstrate that 3D printing can help advance the surgical field in a variety of ways - far beyond 3D-printed organs. Below, we explore the latest advancements in the field and the doors that 3D printing is currently opening up for surgeons.
Belarusian surgeons have recently used 3D printing technology to construct a heart model (an exact replica of a human heart). The model heart was used to rule out potential complications and to help boost post-hospital rehabilitation.
Scientists at the Heat and Mass Transfer Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus have followed suit, 3D printing an entire set of models of human organs. Such models are helping surgeons to reduce the potential risks of a range of complicated surgeries, as the models provide surgeons with a strong overview of potential risks before surgery. Belarus News explains how 3D models can help mitigate any surgery risk:
“Seeing a CT scan on a computer screen may not be enough for preparing a complicated surgery. This is why 3D modelling and printing come in handy. A 3D model precisely replicates how the real organ is built and matches the real organ's size. The fact allows surgeons to polish the technology, plan the surgery, and guarantee its success.”
Custom-made body parts
Previously, we looked into how 3D printing can be used to help produce new organs, helping to potentially tackle the difficulties in scarcity and ideal fit seen in organ donation. Beyond 3D-printed organs, 3D printing can also be used to help print other new body parts, which can be used in surgeries.
One patient was suffering from an infected sternum, which could not be tackled using medication. Surgeons were tackled with the issue of replacing the infected sternum with an alternative. Previously, surgeons have crafted replacement body parts using cement and other synthetic material. But, seeking a better alternative, the patient’s surgeon decided to have a sternum custom made from titanium - using a 3D printer. Titanium was seen as the perfect material, as the lightweight material is integrated by the body, rather than rejected. 3D printing allowed the surgeons to design and order a custom-made sternum, which would perfectly fit his body's specific needs.
There are many benefits to using 3D-printed ‘parts’ in surgery, as this case demonstrates. Parts can be custom-made to be a perfect match for the individual's body, which is not possible using traditional methods and materials. In addition, surgeons and manufacturers can pick the ideal materials (namely metal) for the body - ensuring the likelihood that the body will accept the new part, rather than reject it.
3D printing allows us to advance our surgical practices in many ways - allowing us to avoid risky mistakes and to custom design and construct replacement body parts that are likely to be accepted, rather than rejected by the body.