Daily Archives: March 12, 2019

3D printing becoming a surgical game changer

Imagine 1,000 puzzle pieces without any picture of what it’s ultimately supposed to look like. With few, if any, reference points, the challenge of fitting them together would be daunting. That’s what surgeons often confront when a patient suffering from a traumatic injury or condition has a portion of their body that is dramatically damaged or changed. The “puzzle” can be exponentially harder when the injuries involve a person’s face or skull – areas of the human anatomy that are complex, difficult to surgically navigate, and often require both functional and near-perfect cosmetic repair.

Now, thanks to high-tech equipment that is sometimes not much bigger than a home printer, UC Davis Health physicians are enhancing their capabilities and mapping out surgeries in ways that benefit patients and surgical outcomes.

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3D printing, which for us means manufacturing that’s accurate, affordable and on-site, can be a game changer in health care,” said David Lubarsky, vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences and CEO of UC Davis Health, who is very encouraged by the university’s newest technology initiatives and promising results.

The new device is a specialized but fairly affordable printer that produces three-dimensional models of an individual’s skull or body part. The 3D models enable a surgeon to visualize, practice and then perform the reconstructive surgery while saving time and increasing precision.

Facial reconstructive surgery involves intricate anatomy within an extremely narrow operative field in which to maneuver our instruments,” said E. Bradley Strong, a professor of otolaryngology who specializes in facial reconstructive surgery. “Being able to print out a high-resolution 3D model of the injury, allows us to do detailed preoperative planning and preparation that is more efficient and accurate. We can also use these patient specific models in the operating room to improve the accuracy of implant placement.”

The 3D printer used by Strong and his colleagues for the past year is about the size of a mini-refrigerator and costs approximately $4,000. It uses the imaging data from a patient’s computed tomography (CT) scans to provide the modeling output information. Like an inkjet printer, the 3D version spits out layer upon layer of material over a period of hours, sometimes taking nearly a day to complete, depending on the complexity of the model. The finished replica can save time during surgery, which means less time on the operating table for a patient and potentially a better outcome.

By creating a 3D model prior to surgery, Strong is able to bend and customize generic surgical plates into patient-specific shapes that fit perfectly for each individual patient.

Source: https://health.ucdavis.edu/