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Anatomical models, 3D printed from CT scans, could aid clinicians

04 April 2013

University of Notre Dame researchers have successfully created three-dimensional anatomical models from CT scans using 3-D printing technology.

X-ray CT data sets from a living, anaesthetised Lobund-Wistar rat were used to create this 3D printed model of its skeleton
X-ray CT data sets from a living, anaesthetised Lobund-Wistar rat were used to create this 3D printed model of its skeleton

The process, which holds promise for medical professionals and their patients, is the subject of a paper published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments. The paper reports the results of an experiment using X-ray CT data sets from a living, anaesthetised Lobund-Wistar rat.
The authors report that 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 translation of pre-clinical 3D data to a physical object that is an exact copy of the test subject is a powerful tool for visualisation and communication, especially for relating imaging research to students, or those in other fields.
“Our project with 3D printing is part of a broader story about 3D printing in general,” says Matthew Leevy, co-author and research assistant professor at the Notre Dame Integrated Imaging Facility, 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," says Leevy. “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.”

A US patient recently had 75 percent of the skull replaced by a 3D printed polymer implant from Oxford Performance Materials. The procedure took place after the US FDA cleared the implant in February - the first time the FDA has cleared a polymer implant made with additive manufacturing. OsteoFab, an implant made with PEKK, is already available in Europe.
Oxford Performance Materials uses data from a patient’s CT scan to create a printable CAD file. After a surgeon approves the design, the implant is printed using an SLS 3D printer.

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