Apr 27, 2017 | By David

We’re well aware of the huge improvements that 3D printing technology can bring to the treatment of people in need of various kinds of life-changing surgery. The huge scope for customization offered by 3D printing means that the efficacy of procedures can be improved, and both operation times and costs can be reduced drastically. Pioneering surgical 3D printer company Stratasys has recently announced some hard facts and figures testifying to just how much its technology has helped out one particular hospital, in Birmingham, UK.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital has been making use of Stratasys’ PolyJet 3D printing technology for some time now, specifically the Objet Eden 350V 3D printer and its accompanying VeroWhite materials, as well as the TriTech 3D system. It uses the 3D printer mostly for maxillofacial surgeries, which have a particularly life-changing effect on patients. The burns unit and neurosurgery department are also taking advantage of Stratasys’ system.

A typical case where 3D printing technology makes a huge difference will involve a patient suffering from the effects of trauma or cancer. Facial or cranial tumours, for example, will often necessitate removing parts of a patient's face. This kind of surgery is highly delicate and very time-consuming. Pre-surgical guides can be made according to the exact specifications of a patient’s skull, based on CT scans that are converted into 3D virtual models. The resulting 3D printed replicas, made from the smooth, high-resolution VeroWhite material which is ideal for anatomical models, help speed up the process of figuring out which cuts to make and where. They also enable the cuts to be made to a much higher degree of accuracy, minimizing risks.

Restorative surgery is also greatly improved with the help of 3D printing technology. Personalized replacement bone parts and prosthetic metal plates can be 3D printed for patients to ensure a perfect fit. According to Stefan Edmondson, Consultant Maxillofacial Prosthetist at the hospital, ‘’When dealing with severe cases whereby surgical plates hold facial bones in place, we need absolute assurance that they fit the patients’ measurements exactly.3D printing a replica of the patient’s anatomy allows us to pre-bend these plates in our laboratory. Having these capabilities at the hospital streamlines the entire operation and ensures we are 100 percent prepared when heading into surgery.”

The effects in real terms of implementing 3D printing technology have been huge for the hospital. It reports that surgical planning time has almost been cut in half compared to when standard surgical models were used, with a 93 percent reduction in the amount of hours needed for surgeons to get ready. Operating room times have also seen reductions of up to four hours per procedure. The financial savings are considerable, with the costs being reduced by up to £20,000 per operation.

“The advances Queen Elizabeth Hospital is making in the use of 3D printing in surgical planning are remarkable,” says Scott Rader, General Manager, Healthcare Solutions, Stratasys. “It is a clear demonstration of the ability for 3D printing to enable physicians to better plan, practice and determine the optimal surgical approach.’’



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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