Jul 11, 2017 | By Tess

The St. Antonius Hospital in the Dutch city of Utrecht has found a way to significantly improve cardiac surgery using 3D printed models. That is, by 3D printing a model of a patient’s breastbone, surgeons were able to more precisely secure the sternum after surgery with metal plates, all while reducing operation times.

Edgar Daeter, the cardio-thoracic surgeon at the St. Antonius Hospital who came up with the novel approach, recently applied the procedure for the first time. According to Daeter, not only did the 3D printed model of the patient’s sternum better prepare his team for the surgery, but it actually enabled them to complete the procedure in only an hour an a half. The operation usually takes three hours.

Let’s look more carefully at what the 3D printed model was used for. Sometimes, after open-heart or lung surgery, a patient can experience looseness in their breastbone, and in order to secure them, metal surgical plates are fixed onto the bones and screwed in to keep them in place. The process essentially involves bending the metal plates to fit the patient’s bones during the surgery. But because all patients have different bodies, it can be difficult and time-consuming to get the metal plates exactly right.

Also, as any doctor will tell you, adding extra time to a surgical procedure, for whatever reason, increases the risk of infection. Therefore, being able to cut back on an operation time by as much as 50% is pretty significant.

St. Antonius Hospital in Utrecht, NL

(Images: St. Antonius)

This time reduction has been made possible thanks to 3D printed models, which are based on a patient’s CT scans. The 3D printed models, which were made in cooperation with the hospital’s Radiology department and an external 3D printing lab, have allowed Daeter to prepare the metal plates for the patient’s breastbone before the surgery takes place. Having the metal plates bent and ready before the operation has helped save a lot of operation time and ensures that they stay sterilized.

The 3D printed bones also makes it possible to bend the plates more carefully to make sure they are the best possible fit for the patient, as there are no time constraints before the surgery takes place. So far, the improved method has been used only one on patient, though Daeter believes his method is “better, safer, faster, and cheaper.”

The procedure, called sternal fixation, is a popular one at St. Antonius, as thirty to forty patients from across the Netherlands are referred to the hospital for the surgery. The new 3D printing process for the procedure, which has been financed by the St. Antonius Innovation Fund, will be used on five patients and then evaluated. If health improvements and cost savings are proven, 3D printed models could be used more often for the surgical procedure.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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