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Surgeries Set for a Complete 3D Makeover

3D printing is fast becoming a trend, and its applications promise to usher-in a new age of manufacturing and a huge technological step forward. And just when you think it’s pretty amazing to be able to 3d print any replaceable part or even entire objects like cars, 3D printing has also begun to infiltrate health care, and in particular, surgery.

The concept of 3D printing is still pretty fresh, and there’s some catching up to be done in trying to connect its applications to surgical procedures, which are simply amazing. However, the processes are still in the research and development phase and there are myriad of trials still to be done, but the potential outcomes are mind-blowing.

One example of 3D printing's application to surgery is the case of Pamela Shavaun Scott. Her husband, Michael Balzer, who also happened to be the founder of a 3D printing company, created a computer 3D image of her brain and printed a three-dimensional model of it using her medical records as a guide. The purpose of this was to help doctors find a better and less risky way of removing the tumor inside her skull.

Despite the progress made in healthcare and the breakthroughs in surgery, we’re not quite in a comfortable zone. Healthcare professionals are still faced with problems like biological compatibility, irreplaceable organs, and even trial-and error scenarios. But with 3D printing lies the hope that all these issues will be addressed in the not-so-distant future.

How 3D Printing Can Change the Face of Surgical Procedures and Health Care

One more amazing trick that 3D printing can bring to the operating table is the highly probable potential of being able to 3D print body parts, and these aren’t mechanical, robotic replacements, rather real, live, biological replacement parts.

This procedure of reproducing live tissue is called bioprinting. Combine that with other 3D printing capabilities and we can catch a glimpse of a very bright future for mankind indeed.

  • 3D printing allows accurate reproductions to be made from any body part.

This is very useful in providing accurate data before performing a surgical procedure. The challenge for surgeons and doctors today is that they have to base their diagnoses on a picture. With 3D printed replicas, they’re able to better visualize what needs to be done.

This would be somewhat similar to an architect’s model, which allows people to actually see the vision and plan of the architect before a house or a building is constructed. And these 3D printed replicas would not be useful just for doctors and surgeons but for patients as well. These models will help them better understand what the problem is and what is to be done.

  • Problems concerning the search for suitable donors for replacement organs and body parts will finally be resolved.

The thing with transplants is that, not only do you have to look and wait for replacements, you also need to make sure that they’re compatible with the recipients’ biological makeup, which means things like the blood type need to match. With bioprinting, we can potentially replace any damaged organ or body part with one made from our own DNA.

And perhaps the wait won't be long for us to see this become a reality, as a company called Organovo has already produced bioprinted human liver tissue to be used for scientific research. According to Michael Renard, Organovo's executive vice president  of commercial operations, the company hopes their 3D-printed liver will open doors for better and more advanced drug testing.

  • 3D printing can help manufacture more specialized tools for surgery.

If we can create more procedure-specific pieces of apparatus, then a surgery’s success rate is not only increased but the ease by which the operation is carried out is greatly increased as well.

There could be many more benefits brought about by 3D printing for surgical procedures, and we may have only just scratched the surface in terms of how far we can go with this technology. But just looking at the sort of basic results that it may bring us is more than enough incentive to keep digging and exploring the world of 3D printing.


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