Researchers want to know if 3D models of patients’ organs and disorders can increase the accuracy of the plans surgeons put together before operating, make the surgery more precise, and improve surgical outcomes.
The team is using a Stratasys J750 3D printer to make multi-colored models of patients’ tumors. The company develops technology for a number of industries, including medicine.
Nicole Wake, a researcher at the medical school’s Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, is leading the 3D printing project.
Her team is printing 3D kidney and prostate cancer models for 300 patients, then assessing whether the models can do a better job than two-dimensional visuals at helping surgeons plan operations.
By producing models in different colors, textures, and transparencies, researchers can better replicate the look, feel and function of organs ranging from soft tissue to bones.
“3D printing holds a lot of potential in assisting with surgical planning, and as surgeons, we are always looking at ways to improve outcomes for our patients,” Dr. William C. Huang, a co-author of the study, said in a press release. “We are pleased to be leading a study examining how 3D-printed models may improve the surgical planning process and ultimately impact patient care.”
“Surgeons and hospitals continuously search for ways to improve the quality of patient care while also reining in procedural costs,” said Scott Rader, Stratasys’ general manager of healthcare solutions. “In case studies and small trials, 3D-printed patient-specific models have shown tremendous potential to improve clinical outcomes and cost savings. This clinical [trial] study will be one of the first large-scale studies that can finally quantify the impact of 3D printing.”
3D modeling can not only help surgeons prepare for an operation but also help patients visualize their treatment and course of care. Researchers expect the trial to continue into 2018. In its next phase, the study will explore patients’ surgical outcomes.
3D printing and modeling are becoming increasingly popular in prostate cancer medicine. Methods like the Da Vinci Robot, which boasts 3D-printed surgical models and robotic arms, may be able to improve treatment and save lives.
The Da Vinci process starts with using 3D printing to create a model of a patient’s prostate. Surgeons use the model to familiarize themselves with the prostate’s anatomy before an operation. And they use it during surgery while they control the robotic surgical arms.
Because these approaches are new, there is little information on whether they truly can save lives. Researchers expect the information to become available as time goes by.