London Surgeon Plans Surgery with 3D Printed Bone

The different forms of additive manufacturing, i.e. rapid prototyping and 3D printing are being used extensively in medical science. From prosthetic limbs of humans and animals, actual 3D printed tissues, braces, dentures, surgical models and even 3D printed medicines have been making a splash in the news. Indeed, 3D printing holds immense potential in changing the world of surgeries as we know them. Hospitals all over the world are reaping the benefits of the technology to shape and touch lives. Increasingly becoming popular in hospitals around the globe, 3D printers are used especially for building surgical models. These models help surgeons better prepare themselves for highly complicated, risky and unusual surgical cases.

In April, a 3D printed heart model was used for the surgery of a five day old baby in Russia. The baby’s life was saved thanks to preparation of the heart model before the dangerous surgery that was set to fix the baby’s congenital defect of the heart. Chinese surgeons even went to the lengths of inserting 3D printed joint replacements for two elderly patients with knee joint problems. All these cases are opening up new avenues for surgeons all over the world, so that they can discover the full potential of 3D printing.

More recently, though, Boyd Goldie, a private surgeon based in North London has been making the news. This is due to the fact that the surgeon has already adopted 3D printing technology for emergency surgical procedures as well as for regular treatment procedures. The doctor claims that he has seen better surgical preparation, significant reduction of surgery costs and also, opportunities to educate patients about their conditions.

The orthopedic surgeon from the Holly Private Hospital, London deals with patients who suffer mainly from a range of complications in their upper limb region. Dr. Goldie regularly treats cases that affect the arms, shoulders, hands and wrists. Treatment of broken wrists, torn rotator cuffs, frozen shoulders, golfer’s elbows and different compressions of nerves are not uncommon in the doctor’s experience. During preparation of the surgeries, usually a CT scan is done to identify the problem of the patient. That data is analyzed by Dr. Goldie after these are sent to him, which he subsequently reviews. According to Dr. Goldie, virtual models are possible to be cast on screen with the help of software on modern radiology. However, the feel of holding an actual model within the grip of one’s hands is unparalleled. This helps surgeons get a better understanding of how the phenomena take place, where it is situated in the body and to figure out how they are going to solve the problem.

It is not the first time that surgeons ordered some externally made 3D printed models from various companies that provide 3D printing and rapid prototyping services. This is reserved for the most extreme cases and complex surgeries. Yet, the doctor at North London was never truly satisfied with externally created models. These very expensive products are not only unfeasible due to their high price point, but they also take a couple of weeks to deliver. This is useless and not good at all if a surgeon has to operate on someone with a broken wrist on the very next day or in a couple of hours on an emergency basis.

Deciding to take matters in his own hands, Dr. Goldie therefore bought an Ultimaker 2+3D printer which enabled him to accurately print 3D models of fractures in a matter of hours with the aid of the free software that came with it. Of course, the time required depends quite a lot on the size of the affected area. The doctor explained that he simply asked the technicians and radiographers to put the CT scan information onto a disk. These files were then extracted and imported into the pre-loaded software for making final models with the help of the 3D printer.

According to the ecstatic surgeon, the process of 3D printing has brought a radical change in his methods and productivity. The surgeon’s workflow has changed for the better as he claims. With the 3D models, Dr. Goldie has been able to plan his operations, giving him a better understanding of the case he will be dealing with so that any nasty surprises could be avoided when he arrived at the operating table. However, another factor is equally important. Willing patients can actually feel the 3D printed model for themselves, which provides them with a better understanding of the kind of problem they are facing. They can know more about their condition and understand what the surgeon is going to do- which is an enlightening experience for some patients. Some have even asked for 3D copies of their models.

Given the fact that many of these surgeries did not require specialized 3D models, these do already have very high success and accuracy rate in the first place. However, careful preparation before a surgery helps cut down the time required to operate, making it a cost effective method to go by. The method is considerably faster and cheaper than conventional props for surgery. The 3D model of every case can be customized and illustrated through these unique models. With these, we could be looking at the possible future of surgeries in the modern world.





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