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3D-printed anatomical models increase patient care and reduce operation costs

30 November 2020

Spinal surgery is highly complex. Therefore, surgeons often practise these operations on models. In a complicated case of a severely deformed spine, Newcastle Hospital used a 3D-printed anatomical model to simulate the operation, improving the patient experience and saving £8000 in costs associated with the surgery.

Back pain is a very common problem in the UK. Many people suffer from spinal issues at some point in their lives. Causes range from fractures and curvature of the spine to – in the worst cases – degenerative diseases or spinal tumours. Diagnosis and treatment of such injuries strongly depend on the patient’s individual pathology. They often require a unique approach, custom to each patient’s needs. Spinal surgery, in particular, is often highly complex. As a result, the global demand for medical applications which allow for customised treatments is growing. 

Planning procedures in detail to avoid complications

To ensure optimal preparation, surgeons use custom-built anatomical models, allowing them to practise the exact procedure beforehand. These anatomical models are often used in patient communication and consultation to show and explain to patients what their medical conditions are and what their surgical procedures will involve. With the help of a lifelike model, physicians are able to address any potential risks before operating. This is particularly important when surgery is associated with high risks, such as paralysis. Another advantage of anatomical models is the massive reduction of the operation time and costs, as doctors can conduct a precise simulation prior to the surgery.

However, using conventional methods to produce such precise, lifelike and patient-specific anatomical models is usually very time-consuming. It often takes several weeks to outsource the production of a model. That is a very long time for patients, who are often suffering from severe pain. In addition, these models often depict the entire MRT- or CT-Scan, and not just the area required for treatment. This, in turn, leads to additional use of material, higher costs and later requires more time for analysis.

Read the full article in the December issue of DPA

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