Precision medicine, often known as customized medicine, is gaining popularity. New tools and advanced technology are helping doctors in getting a detailed view of their patient's problems, allowing them to deliver treatments and devices that are specifically targeted to their requirements.
Advances in medical 3D printing technology have had a significant influence on a wide range of healthcare professions. 3D printing can produce previously unimagined instruments and therapeutic methods, giving patients unprecedented degrees of comfort and personalization in their treatment. This newly accessible technology aids doctors in gaining a better understanding of tough circumstances and provides them with new tools that can lead to more effective therapy.
Learn about five ways 3D printing is transforming healthcare, including surgical planning models and 3D printed vasculature and bioreactors, and why so many medical professionals are excited about the technology's possibilities.
Patients Specific Surgical Models
In today's practice of individualized, precision medicine, 3D printed anatomical models based on patient scan data are becoming more helpful tools. Visual and tactile reference models can improve knowledge and communication within OR teams and with patients as cases become more complicated and operating room efficiency becomes more critical for routine situations.
3D printed anatomical models are being used by healthcare professionals, hospitals, and research organizations all over the world as reference tools for preoperative planning, intraoperative visualization, and sizing or pre-fitting medical equipment for both routine and highly complex procedures, as documented in hundreds of publications.
With 3D printing, creating patient-specific, tactile reference models from CT and MRI images is both economical and simple. According to peer-reviewed literature, they give an extra perspective that aids physicians in better preparing for procedures, resulting in significant time and cost savings in the operating room while also enhancing patient satisfaction, lowering anxiety, and shortening recovery time.
New Medical Devices & Instruments
Rapid prototyping is synonymous with 3D printing. In-house 3D printing has changed product development due to its simplicity of use and low cost, and many medical tool makers have utilized the technology to create brand new medical equipment and surgical instruments. Over 90% of the top 50 medical device businesses utilize 3D printing to manufacture precise prototypes as well as jigs and fixtures to make testing easier.
By iterating complicated ideas in days rather than weeks, 3D printing helps speed up the design process. Outsourcing to service providers would have resulted in long lead times for each prototype when Coalesce was entrusted with creating an inhaler device that can digitally measure an asthma patient's inspiratory flow profile. Before being shipped off-site to be produced, design files would have to be meticulously revised via multiple iterations.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals lose a limb each year, yet only a small percentage of them receive a prosthesis to restore function.
Patients must choose one that fits the best because simple prostheses are only available in a few sizes, while custom-fit bionic devices that mimic the motions and grips of real limbs and rely on muscles in the residual limb to control their functions are so expensive that they are only available to patients in developed countries with the best health insurance. This is particularly true in the case of children's prostheses. Children's prostheses will always outgrow them as they grow and participate in new activities, needing costly repairs.
The problem is that there are no manufacturing procedures that can make bespoke parts at a reasonable cost. However, prosthetists are increasingly able to use 3D printing's well-known creative flexibility to overcome these significant expensive obstacles to therapy.
Corrective Insoles & Orthoses
Many of the same significant price hurdles to treatment that exist in the realm of prosthetics also exist in orthotics and insoles. Custom orthoses, like many other patient-specific medical equipment, are often out of reach because of their expensive cost and lengthy manufacturing time. With 3D printing, you can create anything you want.
Matej and his son Nik come to mind as an example. Nik was born prematurely in 2011 and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects about twenty million people globally. Matej was inspired by his son's unwavering desire to overcome the limitations of his condition, but he had to choose between a standard, pre-made orthosis that would have been insufficient and uncomfortable for his son, or an expensive custom solution that would take weeks or months to arrive, only to be quickly rendered obsolete by a growing child.
He decided to take issues into his own hands and look for fresh ways to attain his aim. Matej and Nik's physical therapists were able to experiment freely and build an altogether new inventive approach for ankle-foot orthoses because of the freedom provided by digital technology such as 3D scanning and 3D printing (AFOs).
Nik was able to take his first independent steps with the aid of his custom-made, 3D-printed orthosis, which provided him with support, comfort, and correction exactly where he needed it. This bespoke orthotic device re-created the highly-adjusted finish of high-end orthotics at a fraction of the cost and with no more modifications needed.
Bioprinting, Tissue Engineering, 3D Printed Organs & Beyond
Autografts, or grafts of tissue from one part of the body to another, or organ transplants from a donor are now the only options for treating patients with severe organ failure. Bioprinting and tissue engineering researchers want to change this soon, allowing them to produce tissues, blood vessels, and organs on demand.
3D bioprinting is the practice of depositing materials known as bio-inks to produce tissue-like structures that may be utilized in medical sectors using additive manufacturing technology. Tissue engineering is a term that refers to a group of developing technologies, such as bioprinting, that allow scientists to create new tissues and organs in the lab for use in curing disease and injury.
What’s Next for Medical 3D Printing
Desktop stereolithography and other precise and affordable 3D printing processes are democratizing access to the technology, enabling healthcare professionals to develop new clinical solutions and quickly manufacture custom devices, as well as allowing physicians to deliver new treatments all over the world.
As 3D printing technology and materials advance, individualized treatment and high-impact medical applications will become a reality.