Being competent in performing a variety of specific procedures has been the hallmark of an experienced surgeon, an ability that only experience with previous cases could provide. Various software systems exist that attempt to instill some aspects of a real surgical experience using 3D animation, interaction, and virtual participation.A promising new technique that uses CT scanners and 3D printers may allow surgeons to better understand and train on unique patient anatomies in preparation for operations.
Researchers at Notre Dame are currently printing skeletons of small animals using 3D imaging taken from CT scans, a technique that is easily transferable to human anatomy. Not only this is applicable to bone tissue, but the researchers believe that soft tissue can also be printed and presented for interrogation and practice.
“With proper data collection, surface rendering and stereolithographic editing, it is now possible and inexpensive to rapidly produce detailed skeletal and soft tissue structures from X-ray CT data,” the paper said. “The translation of pre-clinical 3-D data to a physical object that is an exact copy of the test subject is a powerful tool for visualization and communication, especially for relating imaging research to students, or those in other fields.”
“Our project with 3-D printing is part of a broader story about 3-D printing in general,” [W. Matthew Leevy, research assistant professor at the Notre Dame Integrated Imaging Facility] said, adding that the work has spawned several more ideas and opportunities, such as providing inexpensive models for anatomy students. “There’s a market for these bones, both from animals and from humans, and we can create them at incredibly low cost. We’re going to explore a lot of these markets.”
A clinical collaborator, Dr. Douglas Liepert from Allied Physicians of Michiana, is enabling the researchers to print nonidentifiable human data, expanding the possibilities. “Not only can we print bone structure, but we’re starting to collect patient data and print out the anatomical structure of patients with different disease states to aid doctors in surgical preparation,” Leevy said.
Study in Journal of Visualized Experiments: 3D Printing of Preclinical X-ray Computed Tomographic Data Sets…