3D printing transforms hospital surgeries

Life-changing surgeries at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham are being greatly improved by the addition of Polyjet 3D printing technology from Stratasys.

3d Printing - The in-house Stratasys 3D Printer enables the creation of exact replicas of the patient’s anatomy and allows customized fittings and pre-bending of plates – image courtesy of Stratasys.
The in-house 3D Printer enables the creation of exact replicas of the patient’s anatomy and allows customised fittings and pre-bending of plates – image courtesy of Stratasys.

Stratasys’ Objet Eden350V 3D Printer is being used to produce customised models for pre-surgical preparations, enabling a reduction of up to 93% in surgical planning time associated with standard anatomical models.

Having previously outsourced its 3D printing requirements, implementing an in-house 3D printer has greatly improved pre-surgical procedures across several departments. This includes the maxillofacial (face and jaw), burns and plastics, ear, nose and throat, and neurosurgery units.

Consultant maxillofacial prosthetist at Queen Elizabeth hospital, Stefan Edmondson commented: “The ability to produce lifelike medical models in-house on our Stratasys 3D Printer saves around three to four hours in OR time per surgery, which at a cost of £5,000 an hour of operating room time, is quite a substantial cost saving.

Most of the patients currently benefiting from the hospital’s 3D printing capability are trauma and cancer patients, typically those with facial or cranial tumours. Using 3D printing, the maxillofacial prosthetic team converts patients’ CT scans into highly accurate 3D printed replica models, bone replacement parts or metal prosthetic plates that are customised to the exact specification of each patient.

Edmondson explained: “If we need to remove bone from a patient’s face, we can produce an exact 3D printed model to develop the cutting guides. This process results in more efficient clinical outcomes and saves the hospital, patient and medical practitioner valuable time and associated costs.”

The technology also allows surgeons to practice surgeries on true-to-life 3D printed anatomical models, providing invaluable insight into procedural outcomes and helps minimise risks.

Edmondson noted: “When dealing with severe cases whereby surgical plates hold facial bones in place, we need absolute assurance that they fit the patients’ measurements exactly.

“3D printing a replica of the patient’s anatomy allows us to pre-bend these plates in our laboratory. Having these capabilities at the hospital streamlines the entire operation and ensures we are 100% prepared when heading into surgery.”