May 23, 2016 | By Benedict

Doctor Michael Chae, a plastic surgery resident and PhD candidate at Monash University, has conducted research which shows that “4D printing”, 3D printing a succession of haptic models which represent bodily movement as well as appearance, could be the future of surgical planning.

As part of a long-term research project, which involved carrying out 4D printing techniques with Melbourne-based surgeons, Dr Chae reported that 4D computed tomography (CT) scans of the bones of a patient’s hand could be used to create models which accurately replicate hand movement during thumb abduction, opposition, and key pinch, giving surgeons vital information about a patient’s specific physiology.

“Over the past decade 3D printing has transformed the way surgeons conduct preoperative planning,” Dr Chae said. “Here we were able to explore the application of 4D printing in surgical planning. We demonstrated how 4D printing can accurately depict the translation of metacarpals during various thumb movements. With tactile feedback from the biomodels and their ability to accurately represent anatomical details, 4D printing delivers complex spatiotemporal details.”

To obtain the 4D scans, Dr Chae and his team used a 320 multidetector row CT scanner (Aquilion One; Toshiba America Medical Systems) with a collimation of 0.5 mm. Osirix software was then used to convert this data into a printable format, while Dr Chae selected three images from key points in the hand movement. These three 3D models were then sliced and printed on a 3D Systems Cube 2 3D printer (below) using the now-obsolete Cubify software suite.

Earlier this month, Dr Chae presented his the findings of his study at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Annual Scientific Congress in Brisbane. Over a thousand surgeons from the RACS and numerous international surgeons from the Royal College of Surgeons of England attended the event, which consisted of lectures, workshops, masterclasses, discussions, and plenaries.

After seeing the potential of the technology with his own eyes, Dr Chae now believes that 4D printing technology could become widely adopted within the medical world, contributing to safer and more effective hand surgeries. “With the the increasing availability of 4D CT scanners, 4D printing has the potential to become widely accessible for surgical planning and improve clinical outcomes for patients,” he said.

While Dr Chae’s research concerned 4D printed models used in the surgical planning stage, other medical professionals have demonstrated other important uses for “4D printing”. One month ago, doctors in China reportedly used a 4D printed tracheal stent to save the life of a 46-year-old woman, whose damaged trachea was giving her severe breathing difficulties. With “4D” meaning something different in cases like this, the printed implants are built to move and adapt with the body as it grows over time.

Dr Chae’s study, titled “Four-Dimensional (4D) Printing: A New Evolution in Computed Tomography-Guided Stereolithographic Modeling. Principles and Application”, was conducted at Monash University, under the supervision of Prof Julian Smith, A/Prof David Hunter-Smith, Prof Paul McMenamin, and Mr Warren Rozen.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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