May 23, 2015 | By Simon

While we’ve seen how developments to additive manufacturing technologies have helped both bring down the cost of getting something 3D printing as well as delivering results faster, one of the more significant contributions we’ve seen the technology make hase been in the health and medical sector.  

While we’re still a few years away from seeing 3D bioprinting technologies that are capable of 3D printing entirely-new, 3D printed organs such as livers or kidneys, we have been seeing significant contributions from technologies that exist today on desktops around the world.  

Among other use cases, we’ve seen how various medical imaging data including CT Scans and MRIs, among others, have been used to create digital 3D models that are then printed out and used as a replica of a patient’s actual body part for the sake of practicing a surgical procedure in advance of an operation or for finding alternative methods for approaching the procedure.  One place where we’ve been seeing this practice used significantly in recent memory is China.  

More recently, doctors at the XiangYa Hospital of Urology at Central South University in China were able to leverage 3D printing technology in an effort to help successfully remove a tumor from a 60-year-old woman’s kidney.  Thanks to the use of a 3D printed model in advance of the surgical procedure, the doctors were not only able to remove the tumor - but also save the kidney itself; an unlikely case for similar surgical procedures.   

Because the left renal tumor was located directly next to the renal hilum - an area of the kidney that features many vital arteries and veins - the surgery would have called for a removal of the entire kidney in most cases to avoid the risk of causing further damage to a patient.    

Like many other physicians in China today, the physician assigned to the case, Dr. Qi Lin, chose to use 3D printing to assist in the process of planning the surgery.

To create the accurate replica of the patient’s kidney, Dr. Qi Lin took a series of CT scans of the patient’s kidney, tumor and surrounding area which were then cleaned up and prepared for being 3D printed.  Once the replicas were printed, the doctors were able to pinpoint necessary locations for incisions and other details that would ultimately lead the surgery to success.    

On May 11th, Dr. Qi Lin - along with his medical team - performed the 90-minute surgery and were successfully able to remove the tumor while keeping the kidney intact with patient.  In addition to helping reduce the amount of blood loss to just 50 ml during the procedure, the use of the 3D printed replica also dramatically reduced the length of the surgery; what used to take hours only took a mere hour and a half.   

“With this new 3D technology, when aided by the surgeon, it creates a situation where ‘seeing is believing’,” added Dr. Qi Lin.  

“This is true from multiple dimensions, and allowed us to pinpoint the tumor, the arteries and the surrounding kidney tissue before surgery, practice the surgery and then decide on the correct path and operation to perform.”



Posted in 3D Printer Applications


Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive