While researchers continue working hard to make readily available 3D printed organs a reality, we know that it likely won’t happen, at least not on a massively available and low-cost scale, for quite some time. However, 3D printing technology is often used in surgery these days, from surgical guides to implants to patient-specific medical models. Recently, a team developed patient-specific, cost-effective 3D printed liver models, to help doctors with their preoperative plans before performing difficult laparoscopic resections.
Jan Sylwester Witowski, an M.D. student at Poland’s Jagiellonian University Medical College, created the 3D printed liver model. He recently published a paper about the model, titled “Cost-effective, personalized, 3D-printed liver model for preoperative planning before laparoscopic liver hemihepatectomy for colorectal cancer metastases,” in the International Journal of Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery. Additional authors on the paper include Michał Pędziwiatr, Piotr Major, and Andrzej Budzyński.
According to the abstract, “Three-dimensional (3D) printing for preoperative planning has been intensively developed in the recent years. However, the implementation of these solutions in hospitals is still difficult due to high costs, extremely expensive industrial-grade printers, and software that is difficult to obtain and learn along with a lack of defined process. This paper presents a cost-effective technique of preparing 3D-printed liver models that preserves the shape and all of the structures, including the vessels and the tumor, which in the present case is colorectal liver metastasis.”
The 52-year-old female patient whose liver was used for the 3D printed model first had a laparoscopic colorectal resection, and two years after the first resection underwent a laparoscopic right hemihepatectomy (a second liver resection) after a follow-up CT scan showed a single metachronous metastasis. As we’ve seen before when it comes to making 3D printed patient-specific organ models, the patient’s CT scans are used to get a clear visualization of their anatomical structures, and the virtual models are then transformed into an STL file and 3D printed; Witowski used Blender, Meshmixer, and Cura software, and an Ultimaker 2+, to create his 3D printed liver model.
It took him about 72 hours and a total of six print jobs, with colored PLA, to finish the model. It was then assembled and filled with silicone. The abstract of the paper goes on to explain that the full-sized liver model, featuring the colorectal metastasis and visible vessels, was created for less than $150.
“To our best knowledge,” the paper goes on, “this is the first full-sized liver model prepared with innovatory approach described in this article, which allows to create transparent liver models with use of low-cost fused deposition modeling (FDM) printing technique and silicone. So far, the only cost-effective liver models that have been generated have represented single hepatic vessels or portal vein, not showing them as a whole anatomy of the area. Not parenchyma nor tumors have been shown in these early attempts of low-cost 3D liver modeling. Other applications of 3D printing in liver surgery have been based primarily on significantly less affordable PolyJet/MultiJet or selective laser sintering (SLS) techniques.”
If more physicians are able to get access to low-cost patient-specific medical models like Witowski’s 3D printed liver model, more complex surgeries could be planned ahead of time, which help improve short-term outcomes, and reduce the length of time patients are on the operating table. These models can also help lead physicians to important medical breakthroughs in these types of surgeries.
“The cost of production of a model similar to the one presented in this paper is estimated to be under $150. We estimate a total time of development, from segmentation to final object, to be around 160 h. Model was delivered to the surgical team scheduled to perform the procedure 5 days prior to the surgery. Surgeons had visually and tactilely inspected models and discussed the case, including the operative plan, with the aid of 3D model. The model was also available to the surgeon to be used as a intraoperative guidance tool,” the paper notes.
You can watch this short video to learn a little more about the team’s low-cost 3D printed liver model:
Article via 3dprint.com