How does 3D printing technology change surgical planning?

- Oct 25, 2017-

Surgical planning is the process of pre-visualizing a surgical procedure and meticulously defining the steps required to perform the procedure. Let us review how surgery planning was done before.                                 

Conventionally, the process relies on looking at Computerized Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans. CT scans are comprised of numerous X-rays taken at various angles, where computer software is then used to combine the X-rays to produce highly detailed cross-sectional images that display the locations of bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues. MRI machines produce highly accurate images by emitting strong magnetic and radio waves; software is then used to process how the waves interact with the body to produce images. Both of these technologies can be used to produce 2D and 3D images that are extremely helpful in the planning of surgeries, but ultimately the preplanning process is only as good as the doctor imagining the procedure.       

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Now hospitals are beginning to integrate 3D printing technologies into their operations to better prepare surgeons for high-risk procedures.The ability to print patient specific 3D models makes it possible for surgeons to physically feel how the body part that is to be operated on will physically react. This means a surgeon can practice a procedure on a exact replica of a patient’s heart which allows them to know exactly the location of every part of the heart and prevent any surprises that might be encountered during the actual surgery.    

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