GREENWICH, Conn. -- 3D printers have been in use in various industries for more than 30 years, but it’s really been in the last few years that medical applications have greatly expanded
"In orthopedic surgery, customized 3D anatomic models, implants and guides are now created for an individual patient’s specific condition, allowing surgeons a much greater degree of precision than ever before," said Dr. Mark Vitale, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand, wrist and elbow conditions at Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery Specialists "For patients, the technology has improved surgical outcomes and recovery times."
Creating a 3D model begins with an image of the injured bone or bones obtained by CT scan. computed tomography (CT) image. The data from the image is then interpreted by sophisticated software and sent to a 3D printer that constructs the object, layer by layer, from the bottom up.
The 3D replica allows surgeons to examine the condition of the damaged joint or bone in a more detailed way compared to traditional, two-dimensional images. This helps in several aspects of surgical planning, such as screw measurement and plate placement for orthopedic implants.
Custom-made 3D printed implants and guides are now being used to repair or replace a range of bone and joint structures, including hip, knee and shoulder joint replacement, bone tumor reconstruction, fracture surgery, bone graft modeling and trauma reconstruction.
"In the case of one patient whose broken wrist healed crooked, a 3D printer was used to create patient-specific templates to accurately guide bone cuts, implant placement and screw placement to the level of precision of less than a millimeter," said Vitale "The patient’s injured wrist was successfully restored to its normal position and once the bone healed, the patient was able to return to activities, including yoga that she wasn’t able to do previously without pain."