Breaking Barriers with 3D Printing in Medicine

Article by Rod Mackay updated June 7, 2017


In late May Javelin’s 3D Printing team hosted three powerful medical seminars on the effects of 3D Printing within the Canadian healthcare system. The events took place in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa and they were engaging and well-received. Originally, the goal was to deliver cutting edge information to surgeons, radiologists and healthcare professionals on how 3D Printing is positively impacting the economics and outcomes of modern healthcare. What ensued were three collaborative events where medical professionals got together to brainstorm new procedures to tap into the direct impacts 3D Printing has on healthcare. The events were packed with peer to peer knowledge sharing, collaboration on future projects, and fantastic presentations by Stratasys 3D Printing experts.

3D Printing Healthcare

So why is Javelin pushing the boundaries of 3D Printing within medicine in a big way now? In the last 12 months, there have been more peer reviewed publications on 3D Printing for pre-surgical planning than all previous years combined. More than half of these publications cite Stratasys as the technology of choice. The highlighted fields of study from these publications are orthopedics, reconstructive surgery, cardiology, and many others.

3D Printing Healthcare

Healthcare is adopting 3D Printing at a rapid rate. The areas with the most impact are; pre-surgical planning models, realistic training models, jigs/fixtures for the operating room, and rapid prototyping for research tools and medical devices. After speaking to a trail blazer from the Ottawa Hospital it was evident that once a 3D Printed model has been used with the exact pathology of the patient at hand, it is clear there is no need to go back to cadavers or animals as prep tools. 3D Printing on the Stratasys J750 allows surgeons to plan using patient-specific data. Surgeons can practice precise surgeries on a 3D printed model multiple times before performing the surgery on their patient. This is driving success rates through the roof for extremely complex surgeries. Mortality rates have dropped significantly when 3D Printed models are used in the preparation of difficult procedures.

3D Printing Healthcare

Let’s use a heart as an example. If a patient has a faulty valve in the left half of their heart, an MRI scan will be taken of that patient’s heart. Once the MRI is complete, the scan can be rendered into a 3D printable file. It is possible to segment out the components we want to keep and discard the remainder of the anatomy. What is left is an almost perfectly accurate model of that exact heart – with the faulty valve included. From there, a Stratasys J750 printer can print the file in up to 360,000 different material properties to achieve life-like realism. The calcium deposits can be printed in a rigid material and the heart walls can simulate the soft flesh-like tissue. It is truly astonishing how life-like the models are. The surgeon can print the heart multiple times to determine the correct catheter and stint to use, increasing the odds of a successful surgery.

3D Printing Healthcare

That is only one example of how pre-surgical prep models can make a huge impact on a patient’s procedure outcome. If you want to find out more, contact Javelin and we would be happy to share our wealth of knowledge within the medical vertical.

I am extremely excited about this application and the results it is generating in healthcare today. How could I not be? 3D Printing is changing the world of medicine. There is almost nothing more powerful than seeing patients survive risky surgeries because of advancements in 3D Printing. This type of preparation is ground-breaking and it is truly advancing medicine. Above all, Canada is establishing itself as a front runner in researching the clinical outcomes from these models. Simply incredible. 3D Printing is changing the world, one build at a time.

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Rod Mackay

Rod has been using 3D CAD software for over 25 years and has trained thousands of designers to use their CAD systems more effectively. Rod is the Javelin Webmaster and is based in Ottawa, ON., Canada.