3D Surgical Modeling – Making Imaging Real

Since the dawn of medical imaging technology over 100 years ago, physicians have become used to working in two dimensions. X-rays, CT or PET-CT scans, and MRI imaging – all create two-dimensional representations of the part of the body under study or treatment and provide medical staff with invaluable insights.

Yet the human body exists in three dimensions and medicine is increasingly personalized. Gaining in-depth insights into three-dimensional pathologies from two-dimensional models requires a degree of visualization skill that surgeons often find challenging. Traditional 2D models lack the tactile qualities that surgeons inevitably encounter in the real-world of anatomy and complex pathologies. And generic 3D models lack the patient-specific details that can markedly impact surgical outcome.

Now, advances in 3D printing and supporting medical technology from companies likeSuperCraft3D is changing all this. For orthopedics, spinal surgeries, maxillofacial surgeries, neurosurgeries, cardiac surgeries, and others – fast-turnaround 3D printing of anatomical models, patient-specific guides, prosthetics and implants – all derived from actual patient imaging – is changing the face of surgery.

The Need for 3D-Printed Models

The complexity of modern surgical procedures demands minute preparations and real-time guidance to ensure optimal outcomes. Yet surgical guidance can involve significant radiation, and dramatically increase surgical time and patient risk. Further, repair of complex anatomical damage or defects is less suitable to one-size-fits-all prosthetics or devices.

Using a custom-created 3D model to prepare for surgery enables surgeons to viscerally experience a tumor or soft/hard tissue damage before they encounter it in the body. Highly-accurate in detail and realistic in coloring, 1:1-scale personalized 3D models offer a unique tool for preoperative planning and simulation for radiology teams, surgeons and other surgical stakeholders. This enables less intensive operative radiological guidance, and can lower overall operating room time.

3D printed models are also invaluable for preoperative patient education, which is an important facet of any major surgery. Personalized models based on a patient’s own anatomy can help surgeons better illustrate and explain both pathologies and the procedures required to correct them. Finally, 3D models can provide valuable forensic evidence in the event of patient mortality or a medico-legal situation.

The Key to Adoption: Technology + Workflow

The groundswell of interest in 3D printed patient-specific visualization solutions is being driven by an optimal combination of emerging business models and workflows and advanced technology.

Industry-leading providers like SuperCraft3D offer the best of both worlds – advanced 3D printing coupled with ultra-fast turnaround. These companies facilitate instant upload of imaging files from traditional X-Ray, MRI, CT and other diagnostic vectors. These images are converted into highly accurate models within just hours, and can arrive in the hands of surgeons in as little as 24 hours.

This turnaround time is crucial to the adoption of such services in dynamic and fast-paced medical environments. Surgeries are by nature time-sensitive – neither surgeons nor patients can afford to wait for long delivery lags.

The Bottom Line

3D printing is becoming a key tool in medicine generally and surgery specifically. The digital thread has been largely developed from scan to plan, and includes workflows in the lab and in the clinic. Now, surgical stakeholders have the opportunity to extend the digital thread into the physical world – converting patient data into manipulatable 3D-printed models that are changing surgery as we know it.

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