The world of 3D printing is revolutionizing healthcare and medical models are helping surgeons and doctors save lives. In the depths of a financial crisis, 3D Life has been formed in Greece to bring this new technology to the world.
The company has now entered the American Medical Association Healthier Nation Challenge in a bid to promote these ground-breaking products on the world stage.
A homecoming for the co-founder
It is also something of a homecoming for Dr George Sarris. He is one of the project leads and attended Harvard Medical School, before specialising in thoracic surgery. He joined forces with Leonardo Bilalis, a Senior Applications Engineer with extensive 3D printing experience to form 3D Life. The company now works on medical models, architecture, commercial prototypes and even radio control cars.
Sarris’s extensive experience as a surgeon at the Athens Heart Surgery Institute convinced him of the need for these models. Now that 3D printing has advanced to its current level, he felt it was the right time to take a CT scan and turn it into an anatomically correct model before major surgery.
Of course heart surgery is a major part of the company’s work, but the applications for this technology are almost endless.
Models can change the world
While others have concentrated on bioprinting, 3D Life has worked on producing near perfect models of teeth, bones, complex structures like hands and even an individual human heart. These models help surgeons and doctors plan procedures and treatments.
Medical imaging has been a major breakthrough on its own and now CT scans are commonplace before major surgery. Even with a virtual model of the heart on a screen, though, the doctor in question does not have the full picture. They can make a more effective plan for the operation they’re about to carry out if they can hold the affected organ in their hands.
A variety of materials and colours, thanks to the Stratasys Objet260 Connex printer, create models that truly differentiate between the vessels and different tissue types.
Planning prevents problems
Knowing exactly what they want to do before the patient slips under the anaesthetic means that operations are shorter, less invasive and offer fewer surprises. This all contributes to safer, more efficient and cost-effective surgery.
A 3D printed model of a diseased or otherwise affected organ can be a powerful educational tool, too, which can help junior doctors understand the effects of a particular condition so that they will be better prepared when they face it in the real world for the first time.
In time, this technology could become an integral part of the majority of medical procedures. CT scans look set to become an integral part of personalised medicine and the cost of 3D printing simply has to come down as the technology progresses. So there is no reason why a model won’t be a part of everything from basic dental work to major reconstructive surgery in the end.
With advanced modelling techniques, surgeons can even get more adventurous with the procedures they are willing to carry out. Combined with computer modelling techniques, cloud computing and the combined intelligence of the world’s brightest minds, this could help drive healthcare forward. 3D Life’s spectacular models are just one step on the road to a more intelligent healthcare system. We’re looking forward to seeing what they can do next.