Though there is a great deal of excitement surrounding new bioprinting breakthroughs, such as the 3D printed vascular network covered by Scott recently, that could lead to 3D printed organs in the future, 3D printing is having a positive impact in the field of medicine in the present. The technology is already providing surgeons with the means to properly prepare for risky, complicated surgeries before entering the operating room, thus reducing surgery time and associated complications. And the practice of 3D printed models for surgery preparation is becoming increasingly common. In June, for instance, one Chinese hospital became the first to use it in a vascular operation.
After an abdominal tumor had swollen a patient’s aorta from 2 cm to 6 cm in diameter, doctors at Hunan Xiangya Hospital in central China’s Hunan province, decided that they needed to operate. Led by Huang Jianhua, director of surgery for the hospital, the team captured a CT scan of the patient’s tumor and surrounding blood vessels. They then commissioned a 3D printing firm to fabricate a 3D print from the model.
By creating a 3D print of the CT scan, doctors were able to better understand the area on which they were going to operate, resulting in greater precision during the surgery itself. In the end, Jianhua and his team were able to use the print to set up intravascular tubes to remove the patient’s tumor.
Even if 3D printing has only been used the one time for such a vascular procedure in China, to date, the story out of Hunan Xiangya Hospital is one of a growing number that reflects the increased use of 3D printed models in surgery preparation. You can bet that there will be plenty more to come.