3D printing has been integrated into the surgical procedures of many physicians, as it has proved very useful in the planning stages of a surgery. It allows doctors to operate with more accuracy and precision by providing a means for surgeons to become acquainted with three-dimensional models of their subjects beforehand.
These models provide a holistic view of the part of the body under examination, which affords the surgeon time to assess the model and make changes in their surgical procedures or recommendations as required. Furthermore, viewing a 3D representation is far superior to that of a CT scan or MRI, as those technologies use flat images that are often difficult to read. A 3D model provides a more realistic view of the subject that is easier to understand. This ultimately gives the surgeon a greater understanding of the anatomy and allows practice before attempting surgery.
Dr. John Meara, plastic surgeon-in-chief at Boston Children's Hospital explained to the Boston Globe that, “In the past, sometimes you had to make many incisions in the operating room. Now I’m making those decisions on a model ahead of time.” By doing this, the doctor is able to reduce operating time and improve recovery time as the patient’s body experiences less trauma during surgery.
Before surgery, the 3D model can also help communication with patients, as the doctor can use the model to explain exactly how the procedure will take place. This increases the patient's trust and further improves the medical care and attention received by the patient.
Affordability Contributes To Increasing Medical Use Of 3D Printing
Surprisingly, 3D printing systems are not as expensive as one would think, and in fact are quite affordable, starting as low as a few thousand dollars for a basic 3D printer. Naturally, more sophisticated models fetch a higher price, but overall the cost of this technology is not insurmountable. This presents the opportunity for 3D printing systems to be used on a wider scale, and ultimately become as common a tool in the medical field as a stethoscope.