Nov 15, 2017 | By Tess

Surgeons from the University of Mainz Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery Department in Germany have turned to 3D printing technology to help advance and improve surgical planning processes for complex vascular operations. The doctors are using the technology to produce patient specific 3D printed models that are used to design and fit vascular implants.

3D printing has staked its place within the medical field, as all over the globe doctors, surgeons, researchers, and medical device manufacturers are seeing the potentials of the technology to advance healthcare.

One on end of the spectrum, 3D bioprinting is being explored for the development of implantable tissues and organs, while on the other, commercially available 3D printing technologies are being used in medical centers to produce surgical guides and training models.

At the German University of Mainz, the Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery department has started using 3D printing to manufacture patient-specific 3D models which are enabling them to both design perfectly fitting implants and practice complex operations.

According to the surgical team, 3D printing has not only improved the process for designing implants but it has also allowed for a significant reduction in cost for the process. Down the line, the patient-specific 3D printed models also result in saved time, as the surgeons are better equipped during the surgery and can complete the process more efficiently.

The university hospital is known for its advanced cardiothoracic and vascular surgery department, which treats patients with heart, thorax, and blood vessel related ailments. With the addition of 3D printing to its arsenal of medical technologies, the surgeons there believe they have the opportunity to improve their level of patient care even more, especially when it comes to the more complex cases.

3D printed model of a patient-specific aortic arch

“On average, CT scans with 1000-2000 images can be made per vascular-related patient case, which the surgeons use to analyze and diagnose the illness. This can be ambiguous and time-consuming when the issue is complex,” explained Prof. Dr. Bernhard Dorweiler, the head of the department. “With 3D printed models, we can quickly understand the individual patient anatomy and best determine the type of treatment required to successfully treat it.”

Prof. Dr. Dorweiler adds that with the patient-specific 3D printed models, surgeons have the potential to cut back on surgery time by 5 to 45 minutes, largely because the implants have already been fitted to the patient and the surgeon is acquainted with the patient’s relevant anatomy.

“Research is still ongoing, but if you take an average surgery time of 2-4 hours, you are looking at time savings of up to 40%,” he says. “When you are dealing with complex vascular cases every day, these time-savings can be the difference between life and death.”

In one recent case, the doctor and his team took on a case that had been turned away from multiple hospitals within Germany and elsewhere because of its complexity and high surgical risk. A 53-year-old woman was suffering from what is described as a “bulging blood vessel” on her neck which was caused by an aortic malformation close to the heart.

When the patient’s CT scans did not provide the surgical team with enough information or clarity to operate, they decided to 3D print a model of the patient’s anatomy.

“It was then for the first time that it became clear what the origin and magnitude of the problem was,” said Prof. Dr. Dorweiler. “Not only did we use the model to explain our findings to the patient to increase her compliance for the planned 3-step operation, but we even took it into each of the three surgeries as a point of reference during operation, which was crucial to the successful outcome.”

Stratasys' Eden260VS 3D printer

Currently, the Maiz hospital is using a Stratasys Eden260VS 3D printer to manufacture its surgical models, and has found that using a transparent material has been the most effective for vascular applications. The 3D printer, which is set up at the hospital’s BiomaTicS research center, is also being used to produce training models for vascular surgeons.

As Prof. Dr. Dorweiler, added: “With the ability to 3D print patient-specific aortic models in clear transparent material, the trainees can practice endovascular procedures and learn difficult Wire-Skills using the accurate replicas of blood vessels. For healthcare, it is crucial that we continue to leverage the capabilities of 3D printing for medical training, education and research for future breakthrough-implementation.”

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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