With the help of 3D printing technology, we’ve produced tissues, a heart, and an air sac to help advance medical procedures and provide treatment for patients. But there are other uses for 3D printing in the medical field such as having them print replicas of organs for surgeons to demonstrate how to operate.
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Cleveland Clinic gastroenterologist Nizar Zein first considered the idea of printing organ models in 2012 after reading about people constructing houses with 3-D printers and the technology’s potential uses in space exploration. He wondered if the method could make liver transplants from living donors safer.
The first prototype was crude — “really like a child playing with Play-Doh,” Zein recalls. Zein refined the model, and in 2013 started studying how a life-size 3-D liver model, in addition to 2-D scans, would change how surgeons planned operations. Zein’s team has gone on to print 3-D models of complex liver tumors to understand how they are connected to the organ, and thus inform surgical planning.
(Image credit: N.N. Zein et al)