Mar 18, 2018 | By Tess

A trauma center in the Netherlands is using 3D printing technologies to improve the treatment of trauma patients, especially those who are admitted with bone fractures. The technology is being explored at the Elisabeth-TweeSteden Ziekenhuis (ETZ) trauma center by a team of trauma surgeons and researchers.

At the ETZ, one of 11 trauma centers in the Netherlands, PhD candidate Lars Brouwers is testing the effectiveness of 3D printing for trauma treatment. He has been tasked with the job of transforming medical scans of bone fractures into patient-specific 3D printed models. The 3D printed bones are then being used as pre-surgical aids for doctors and as explanatory models for patients.

Brouwers, along with ETZ trauma surgeons Mike Bemelman, MD and Koen Lansink, MD, believe that physical 3D printed models can offer surgeons a better and clearer understanding of a patient’s injury than 3D models visualized on a 2D screen.

Typically, the trauma center’s surgeons prepare for an operation by studying and analyzing a CT scan of the patient’s bone or a digital 3D rendering of the CT scan. And while this method is a cut above even more traditional methods (like going straight into the operating theater), making sense of a 3D image on a two-dimensional plane has the risk of creating confusion in terms of depth and orientation.

That’s why 3D printing, which can offer a tangible recreation of the patient’s bone, could be of use.

Brouwers has been turning CT scans of patients’ injuries into 3D printable models with the help of the Philips IntelliSpace Portal, which enables him to easily convert a CT scan file (DICOM format) into a print-friendly STL file. From there, the file is prepped and sliced using Ultimaker Cura and 3D printed on an Ultimaker 3 3D printer.

The researcher has relied on water-soluble PVA support materials to recreate the complex structure of a broken or fractured bone, to give surgeons the most accurate model possible. According to the researcher, once he has the CT scan, he can have the 3D printed model ready in as little as a day.

The question is, have the 3D printed models improved treatments at ETZ? Well, it seems like they have been beneficial, or at least that’s what the surgical kappa scoring method suggests.

Brouwers and the ETZ team reported an average kappa score of between 0.6 and 0.7 using the 3D printed models as surgical prep tools. These scores are reportedly the highest of all other methods, with experienced surgeons typically having a kappa score of about 0.4 when analyzing 2D scans.

It ultimately seems like 3D printing has has a positive effect at ETZ, so perhaps the other 10 trauma centers across the Netherlands will soon adopt the technology too.

We wrote about Brouwers last year when he drove to Sierra Leone with an Ultimaker 3D printer in order to provide 3D printed prosthetic arms.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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