Among the many uses of 3D printing in the medical field, pre-surgical modeling, custom implants, doctor-patient communication, education and bioprinting for research, there is one that is often forgotten by the media and yet it could have some of the most disruptive effects on medicine and surgery: the on-demand production of custom surgical tools.
This is already a significant part of surgeries and yet the possibilities in this field has only begun to be explored. Zortrax, the leading Polish 3D printer manufacturer and one of the most successful desktop 3D printer manufacturers worldwide, has collaborated with Dr. Marcin Feliga to create the first 3D printed winch to operate on the endovascular surgical removal of varicose veins.
As a result of this collaboration, the casing and numerous elements of the device were 3D printed on the Zortrax M200 3D printer. The results were so convincing that the new device has already been used in several operations performed at the MEDIQ clinic in Legionowo near Warsaw.
“The human factor is unreliable. The process of closing the vein properly requires the right laser strength applied to the appropriate vein length,” Dr. Marcin Feliga, MD said. “We’re tired, we perform a lot of operations, and there is a risk of removing the optic fibre too quickly or too slowly.
“The winch operates much like a ski lift,” he went one to explain, “[in that] it removes the optic fibre from the vein with the same speed and over the same time and makes 100% sure that it is closed properly. The device has diametrically changed our operations, we have an almost 100% frequency of proper vein closing. Meanwhile, global statistics fall between 80 and 85 percent,” the doctor concluded.
Endovascular removal of failing lower limb veins is an innovative procedure to address this very common health and aesthetic issue. Compared to traditional methods, it does not leave scars and provides for a very short healing time. without causing bruises or the previously common walking problems. During the procedure, the optic fibre laser enter the veins and closes the vessels from the inside.
While its has numerous advantages, this method also requires great skill and composure from the physician. It has to be performed manually and yet the optic fibre’s movement must be uniform and steady. If the fibre is removed too slowly or too quickly from the vein, it may cause skin discoloration, hypodermis irritation, and even burns. The physician must adjust the movement of the fibre to the strength of the laser and must be completely focused for the entire time, that is about 10 minutes for the removal of 60 cm of fiber.
The 3D printed winch device designed and developed by Zortrax engineer Robert Klaczyński in cooperation with Dr. Feliga, went through several 3D printed prototype iterations. It was designed not damage the optic fibre when it is being removed from the vein, while providing stable movements with uniform speed. It can also be sterilized with ease.
“The Zortrax M200 3D printer was designed for engineers, architects, and everyone requiring a reliable and inexpensive device for quick prototype development and limited serial production,” said Rafał Tomasiak, the Zortrax CEO and designer of the printer. “Our unique approach to the printing environment, which is composed of not just the 3D printer but also our original software and dedicated printing materials, has made the M200 into a machine with precision sufficient for medical application. This makes us glad, because our new 3D printer – Inventure, which will soon be revealed – will provide even more precision and have even more applications in this field of science,” Rafał Tomasiak adds.
Zortrax has filed for patents on both the Polish and international markets for the 3D printed medical winch. With 3D printing it almost seems like all it takes to invent something useful and revolutionary is to ask professionals what they need.