The ability to produce highly detailed three-dimensional models from radiological scans is a huge advance, not only in prosthetics and implants but also in surgical preparation.
Hospitals generally use 3D printing to produce highly detailed models of patient-specific structures from CT and MRI scans. Images from scans are converted into Computer-Aided Design (CAD) files and printed out in a layer-by-layer fashion with polymer resins.
These 3D models help surgeons to plan and optimize surgery, which improves operating and recovery times, thus improving outcomes. The models are also useful as teaching tools.
For example, in cancer of the jaw, where a section of the mandible has been removed, a scan of the jaw can be printed. This enables surgeons to optimize the design and practice fitting the prosthesis for individual cases.
Matthew Sherry, Managing Director of Replica 3dm, a high-resolution 3D printer at the Salisbury District Hospital in the U.K., explained: