Surgery is not an exact science. Doctors can study anatomy all they want, but as a practical matter, every patient is a little different. And when you’re trying to remove a cancer tumor, there’s no textbook that can show you precisely what you’re facing. Medical imaging does wonders to peer inside the body, but the digital slices of information can be difficult to visualize in three dimensions.
3D printers are rapidly becoming indispensable tools for surgeons who need to visual complex organs in order to plan surgical procedures. A new development by 3D printer maker Stratasys makes this tool even more valuable. Their printers can now print using multiple colors of plastic, including clear material. Doctors at the Department of Urology and Kidney Transplantation at the University Hospital (CHU) de Bordeaux in France use 3D models in their planning. The image above shows a model of a kidney with a cancer tumor. The clear material makes it possible for surgeons to view internal structures that would not be visible in a solid model. The model helps the doctors minimize the damage to the healthy tissue, increasing the chances that the patient will be able to retain the use of the kidney after the operation.
The models are also helpful in explaining the situation to patients, as well as serving as teaching tools when training surgical students. 3D printing makes medical imaging data much easier to visualize, and will save lives as a result.