Uses of 3D printing in Medicine


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At the beginning, when 3D printing technology came into existence in 1983, it was used mostly in manufacturing industry. With the advancement of the printer, it became popular after the 2000s, when people began to realize its importance and what they could do with such a printer. Gradually, the potential of 3D printing was used in a wide range of sectors such as engineering, graphic arts and retail. And, healthcare industry is not an exception in this case. The development of 3D printing has opened infinite possibilities in healthcare industry and is reshaping the world of medicine. From medical device manufacturers to major pharmaceuticals, they are redirecting strategic thinking to embrace 3D printing.

Want to know more about the benefits of 3D printing for medicine? Keep reading our article!

How 3D Printing is transforming the health sector?

3D printing brings a huge breakthrough in the medical sector. Many applications are currently available to patients and health professionals, such as the manufacture of prostheses, the production of models for the preparation of surgical interventions, etc. If we look at the whole story, we went from bleeding to “remove the harmful tumor” through technologies like a laser to help the cut skin precisely. Of course, it is something to be fascinated by these ever faster developments.

3D printers have made a real revolution in medicine and here we will talk about the most incredible examples of using such a technique.

Medical Episodes involve in 3D printing

  • Pauline Fenton’s new kidney – The first event I will discuss is about the case of Pauline Fenton, a 22-year-old girl. Pauline lived with terminal kidney disease and was totally dependent on dialysis. When waiting for a kidney donor on one of the tests, it was confirmed that his father William was the right living donor for the transplant. However, mishaps were found while the tests were performed on the donor. They discovered a potential cancerous speck in William’s kidney. The procedure which was already in complex position has now obtained a higher difficulty rating index.

The correct procedure to follow on such an occasion was primarily proper surgery, the removal of Pauline’s father’s kidney cyst. So that, after the surgery they could proceed with the transplant but what did the surgeons at Belfast City Hospital do? From a CT scan of William’s kidney, they produced an exact replica of the donor’s organ on a 3D printer. However, this replicated model was not used for transplantation.

The 3D printed kidney was useful for surgeons to ascertain the extent and location of the tumor within the cyst. Thus, the surgical team was able to effectively plan the patient’s tumor removal surgery and it became successful.

  • The unidentified Woman’s Skull Case – This event took place in 2014 in the Netherlands, precisely at UMC Utrecht – University Medical Center Utrecht. Where the first skull transplant was performed, using material constituted through a 3D printer. The operation was performed on a 22-year-old girl whose identity was not yet identified. She had a rare condition that caused an extra bone in her skull that compressed her brain. The diagnosis was later held as the patient complained of severe pain in her head. That first began to lose his sight, and then his motor action controls.

The surgery was performed in strenuous 23 hours, where they not only removed a part of the skull. But also they did a complete the replacement of the young woman’s skull. What expert surgeons said, is unusual. The 3D printing was performed by the Australian company Anatomics. Through a CT scan, they understood the exact shape of the young woman’s skull, to later print a customized acrylic copy of the patient’s size, correcting the unwanted growth. The operation was successful, and three months later she returned to work, with no visible scars, and no ill effects.

Benefits of 3D printing in Medicine

These cases are just a few examples of how technological advances in medicine can save lives. But there are also other benefits of 3D printing. It offers a ton of benefits in the fields of medicine:

  • 3D Printing of Prosthetics – Prosthetics have always been expensive products that depended on patient adaptation, consuming time and money. With the help of 3D printing, prosthetics are being created with an unprecedented level of customization in the area. Scientists and researchers believe that in the near future it will be possible to use the so-called biotint instead of plastic or metal, which would bring even more benefits, as 3D printing would also extend to human-like natural organs.
  • Tumor Identification – The identification of tumors currently depends on several complex imaging and resonance exams, and surgeries that often do not find an effective outcome for patients. With 3D printing, tumor identification takes a new level. By identifying the patient’s organ with imaging and later detailed printing of the identified organs with special transparent material, doctors can identify where the tumor resides and even analyze if there is any artery or cavity that is in contact with the tumor. 
  • Creation of human muscles and tissues – The impression of human tissues and muscles may still be in its early stages, but its future is very bright. Bioprinting, as it is being called, promises to revolutionize the way human reconstitution and recovery treatments take place. Regenerative medicine may be the main beneficiary of this sector of 3D printing, as cartilage, bone and muscle structures mature and become functional structures for patients after transplantation.

With the possibility of faithfully replicating complex human organs and tissues in the future, the landscape of organ donation and human tissue regeneration in hostile environments is promising for doctors, researchers, and patients.

Closing Thoughts

The presence of technology in health is becoming increasingly necessary. The benefits are numerous, and cannot be ignored: improved hospital management, faster diagnosis, and improved quality of life for patients, etc. With it, there are fewer chances of errors and optimal treatment choices for each person and type of pathology. Undoubtedly, the use of 3D printing in healthcare is a trend with great possibilities for the future.


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