Surgeons tend to be on the cutting edge all around, pun intended. With lives held in their very hands as they perform procedures from the most routine to those that have never been attempted, doctors are usually given every tool possible to see that they are successful. And in the past few years, 3D printing has been increasingly showing itself as a new technology that is not only there to stay within the medical field, its ongoing innovations continue to demonstrate a fast-paced evolution as well as branching out into numerous areas. From 3D printed medical devices like implants to 3D printed medical models used for everything from training to guides in the operating room, miracles are being reported—and there are a lot of happy patients around the world experiencing a new level of quality in their lives.
3D printed surgical instruments are on the rise today as well, but so far we’ve only seen sporadic innovations, and even one instance where researchers have experimented with the feasibility of 3D printing them on Mars in the future for telesurgery. Back on Earth though, impressive progress is being made in Spain at the Hospital Regional Universitario de Málaga. There, cardiovascular surgeons are now employing 3D printed surgical instruments during extracorporeal surgery interventions thanks to work created by cardiovascular surgeon Ignacio Díaz de Tuesta (now of La Paz Hospital – Madrid) during his time spent on rotation at the hospital. With this technology, he created instruments that would not have been possible with conventional methods, again showing us one of the greatest values in 3D printing.
With these futuristic tools, the doctors are offering a new kind of patient-specific care, making surgical instruments that fit specifically to the patient after being 3D printed from converted echocardiograph and CT images. The surgeons at Hospital Regional Universitario de Málaga have used these instruments now with 30 patients in over a year’s time in applications for open cardiac surgery during procedures such as:
- Aortic valve replacement
- Changes of aorta segments by aneurysms or aortic dissections
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Aortic valve protector
- Paravalvular probe
- Intraoperative diameter meter of the aorta
- Gauge for calibrating the incision of the skin
Each piece is 3D printed with plastic and can be easily sterilized for re-use. And while Dr. Ignacio Díaz de Tuesta and peers using his 3D printed medical instruments are pioneers for now, this is obviously the picture of the future for many hospitals. Most are just beginning to dip their toes into the water as far as 3D printed medical models go, as they are able to print patient-specific models from MRIs and CT scans, showing tumors and other conditions—allowing for diagnosis, treatment, education, and guiding during the procedure. With accompanying 3D printed surgical instruments, the picture is becoming much more full for surgeons who are able to streamline procedures and offer completely personalized care to their patients.
[Source: CSP World]