When it comes to learning how to do surgery, most doctors learn by watching other surgeons first. This creates a learning curve where new doctors are doing the surgery on their own for the first time and may make minor mistakes. This issue is especially prominent in areas of pediatric surgery where the tiny size of the patient makes observation during surgery very difficult. The use of cameras and other technology can make viewing easier but it does not take the place of actual hands on practice. To that end, simulated surgery is becoming increasing popular for training surgeons.
That is why Dr. Katherine Barsness is working with the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University to use 3d printers to create tiny, lifelike ribcages. By using these tiny, reusable ribcages and bovine tissue, surgeons can practice on a model that looks and feels like the real thing. Now they can practice surgery on real tissue that is confined within a lifelike ribcage. Ribcages can be created for any size of child as well which means surgeons can even practice on newborn ribcages in order to get practice with surgeries that they may only be able to see once or twice. Right now the ribcages can be created for as little as $200 but the initial cost of the machinery and the software is much more. It is hoped that when evidence arises of how useful simulated practice with ribcages is for training surgeons, grant money and interest in the tiny ribcages will grow.