Medical imaging has made enormous improvements in recent decades. New digital technologies make it possible to amass huge amounts of data that give physicians the ability to peer inside living bodies. One of the happy benefits of this data is that it can be used to create high-resolution three-dimensional images. And thanks to 3D printers, those images can now be printed as solid models that doctors can pick up and hold, giving them a new tool to visualize image data. These models can be used to help plan procedures and explain a diagnosis to a patient.

Even though these models are useful, they can be expensive and time-consuming to produce. Mt. Sinai Health System has addressed these issues by creating their own in-house 3D model printing service for doctors and researchers. They have developed software that makes it easier to convert data from medical imaging services into 3D models. The new service has already worked on projects for many clinical departments, including neurosurgery, orthopaedics, surgery, otolaryngology and cardiology. By operating on a fee-for-service basis, the operation only has to cover its costs. As a result, models that might cost $5,000 if produced by an outside provider can be created at an internal cost of just $500. As a bonus, turn-around times are slashed from weeks to just days.

Lower cost and faster service are great benefits. Mt. Sinai may well be a bellwether in this area; in time, we may expect to find in-house 3D printing available at most major surgery hospitals. The end result will be lower costs and better outcomes for patients.