Application of 3D Printing in Medicine

What is the role of 3D printing in medicine? How are medial sciences institutions and healthcare players using 3D printing in the industry? Read on to find out.

As we start this article on 3D printing in medicine, we’ll not be looking at dentistry. This is not because dentistry is not real medicine, but because 3D printing and scanning are already standard in the dentistry industry. In fact, using 3D printers and scanners has become a norm.

If you were specifically interested about 3D printing in the dentistry industry, we’ve already covered the topic in depth. Check the following links for more information:

With that out of the way, we will also bypass the topic of bioprinting. This technology is still at an early stage of development. However, it has great prospects for use in the foreseeable future.

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Application of 3D Printing in Medicine

We usually start our articles with the application of 3D printing in various areas and where the models for printing come from. For medicine, you won’t find paid or free STL files for 3D printing available on the Internet. Instead, you have to come up with the files yourself.

Medical files for 3D printing have to be 3D-modeled or scanned. You can also use the files obtained with MRI and CT by converting the into 3D models.

Of course, doctors are not specialized in created 3D models. For this, they need help from the appropriate specialists.

Now let’s look at specific examples to find out the tasks and what kind of printers can be used for medical purposes.

Surgical Interventions

One of the areas of medicine that actively and successfully uses 3D printing is the planning of surgical intervention.

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In Russia, HoloDoctor is engaged in the implementation of digital technologies in modern medical conditions. Thanks to the software, doctors in the Stavropol Regional Hospital are already actively using 3D models and virtual simulators in practice for diagnosing and planning complex operations.

Traditional CT and MRI data are often insufficient to determine the volume of the tumor and plan its excision. This is where HoloDoctor software comes in. Based on computed tomography data, the software is used to create an accurate 3D model of an organ or an entire organ system of a particular patient.

The 3D model is used by practitioners in a simulation program, for example, to align an organ with large vessels. The model is also used for 3D printing. This enables doctors to physically plan and evaluate the possibilities of a surgical intervention.

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Such careful planning allows doctors to better assess the patient’s condition. Moreover, it significantly increases the chances of a favorable outcome of the operation.

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Practical Medical Materials

3D printed prototypes also eliminate the gap caused by lack of practical materials in universities and institutes.

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At the Stavropol Medical University, such 3D models have replaced real organs placed in jars with formalin, which did not allow students to fully study them.

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Accurate models of organs with defects and defects, corresponding to real patients, have become an excellent practical tool with which one can interact, carry out various manipulations and study from all sides.

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One of the former students of the Stavropol Medical University, and now a practicing pediatric neurosurgeon at the “National Medical Research Center. VA Almazov”, Vadim Ivanov became interested in 3D printing during his studies.

In his clinical work, Vadim often uses 3D printing to plan complex surgeries.

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One of such examples is the simultaneous performance of an expanding skull reconstruction and cranioplasty for a small patient with extensive defects of the skull bones with prolapse of the medulla into bone defects.

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To properly prepare for such a complex operation, an accurate, 3D 1: 1 skull model was created.

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Even before the operation, the doctor outlined the osteotomy lines on the template and modeled a titanium mesh to close the defect.

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It is difficult to overestimate the importance of such careful preparation for complex operations, when any surprise can cost the patient dearly.

3D Printed Casts

Another promising use of 3D printing in medicine is in orthotics.

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One company that is actively involved in the development and implementation of 3D printed orthoses is Zdravprint.

The technology of fixing injured limbs with plastic orthoses has undeniable advantages over traditional methods of applying plaster. First of all, it is hygienic. Gypsum does not work well with moisture and does not allow the skin to breathe. This leads to inflammation, dryness and other unpleasant consequences during treatment. All these issues can be completely eliminated thanks to the plastic fixator.

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A 3D model of the orthosis is created in a special program based on the patient’s biometric data and sent to print. The printing takes from fifteen minutes to two hours.

Next, the doctor creates a ready-made model of the orthosis directly on the patient.

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Such fixators will completely replace the plaster cast in case of moderate injuries and during the recovery period. The fixators are much lighter than plaster, allow the skin to breathe and do not get affected by moisture. This means that patients can take a shower without worrying about the fixators, unlike is the case with gypsum casts.

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For all its advantages, this technology is still a more expensive alternative to plaster and cannot replace it in the treatment of severe injuries. At least not for now.

If you are interested in learning more about this, check our article on 3D printed casts.

3D Printed Implants

3D printing of implants is not developing so rapidly and so far, these are isolated cases. The slow progress in development can be due to a lack of practical research and certain risks that not every doctor is ready to take on.

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However, there have still been some successful applications. For example, doctors at the Moscow State Medical University THEM. Sechenov, performed a surgery to reconstruct the anterior pelvic bones using a 3D-printed titanium plate.

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After removing a large tumor, which strongly affected the pubic bone, it was necessary to close a huge armhole in the bone tissue in order to maintain the patient’s mobility.

Using computed tomography data, an anatomical implant was created to recreate the integrity of the pelvic ring. The implant was 3D printed from titanium.

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The operation was successful and after rehabilitation the patient will be able to return to normal life.

In the near future, doctors hope to add this type of surgery to the list of planned ones.

What 3D Printers are Suitable for Solving Medical Problems?

If you want to integrate 3D printing in your medical practice, we recommend purchasing the highest quality models of 3D printers for medical tasks. This is because the equipment can handle various complex models and can print with flexible materials, With the printers, you can produce large size and high detail models, complex and non-geometric shapes and more.

The Raise3D Pro2 printer or the latest FlashForge Creator 3 with two independent extruders can create very complex models. These printers handle such tasks well.

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The Shining Pro 2X would be a good 3D scanner for medicine. Tis scanner, even in the basic configuration, is capable of scanning parts of the human body with high accuracy.

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When it comes to 3D printing titanium implants, you’ll have to look at industrial equipment, such as Concept Laser printers or similar. Unfortunately, the cost of such equipment is still prohibitive. This is why they are not widely used. However, we soon expect a revolution in metal 3D printing and the appearance of much more budgetary models.

That is an overview of 3D printing in medicine.

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