KU Hospital doctors use 3D printers to perfect their craft

By  | 

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The University of Kansas Hospital have turned the novelty of 3D printing into a medical necessity.

Medical residents like Jeremy Peterson once learned how to perform surgeries by observing the work of their attending doctors until 3D printed models gave surgeons-in-training a more hands on approach.

“Practice makes perfect and if you can do more practice, more hands-on activities, without the risk of hurting somebody I think it’s only going to help us improve,” said Peterson.

Using 3D printers to create models based on a patient’s MRI scan gives doctors and residents the ability to prepare for surgeries, creating shorter surgery times and ultimately better physicians.

“You can cut the bone where you think you want to go and see if that’s the best way to get to whatever you’re going to,” explained Peterson.

Filament designed to mimic the texture and density of the body part being modeled allows residents to practice with real medical equipment, but Peterson sees another advantage.

“I think eventually the material is so strong that we’ll be able to 3D print our implants specific to that patient,” said Peterson.

The medical practicality of 3D printing doesn’t stop at orthopedic surgery. Across the hall at KU Hospital, reconstructive surgeons are using the same machine for more aesthetic purposes.

Dr. Brian Andrews said, “At the current time, 3D printing allows me and other surgeons to take a look and see how pieces of bone go together and get an idea of what type of tissue to reconstruct it”.

Andrews is currently the director of the Cleft and Cranial Facial Surgery department at KUMC.

Andrews recently used a 3D printed model of a gunshot injury patient to plan how he’ll perform the facial reconstruction. He says he has high hopes for the future of 3D printing and reconstructive surgery.

“The future of 3D printing would be to print the part that we’re actually missing. Currently we just pick and choose implants off of a shelf and we look and match to see what would look best for the patient. If we could 3D print and plan something on a computer that was individualized, that would improve the outcomes of a lot of the surgeries we do,” said Andrews.

Even though researchers have successfully used 3D printers to grow tissue and human organs, Dr. Andrews wants to set the record straight about this medical phenomenon.

“There’s nothing commercially available,” said Andrews. He attributes that to lack of FDA approval, but Andrews is still optimistic. “The beginnings of it are probably in the next five years and then 10 to 20 years from everyday use.”