Recent rapid growth of 3D printing in medicine has been staggering. A search of Pubmed.gov using the term “3D printing” yielded only six publications in the year 2000, 61 publications in 2010, and more than 1100 publications in 2016. To encourage continued growth of this technology, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute was launched in 2012. Many professional societies have also advocated the use of this technology in medicine. For example, the Society for Manufacturing Engineers has a dedicated medical 3D printing workgroup.
In 2016, the Radiological Society of North America formed the 3D Printing Special Interest Group. The 3D Printing Special Interest Group has already sponsored many educational sessions at the annual meeting and is committed to building evidence for clinical utility of 3D printing.
What began as a largely industrial tool to facilitate concept-to-prototype development, three-dimensional (3D) printing has evolved into a widely used technology, affecting many aspects of modern society.
The term “3D printing” grew out of the research and development laboratories of the automotive and aerospace industries. The technology was developed throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and medical applications were initially reported in the early 2000s. Initially, these reports focused on custom prostheses, but as the technology improved, reports of using anatomic models for preoperative planning began appearing.
Today, 3D printing continues to find new applications: customized eyeglasses can be printed to exact specifications, an increasing number of foods can be printed on demand, and there are plans to manufacture cars entirely using 3D printing.
Three-dimensional (3D) printing refers to a number of manufacturing technologies that create physical models from digital information.
Radiology is poised to advance the application of 3D printing in health care because our specialty has an established history of acquiring and managing the digital information needed to create such models.
Challenges for creating custom implantable devices including financial and regulatory processes for clinical application are reviewed. Precedent procedures that may translate to this new technology are discussed. The task force identifies research opportunities needed to document the value of 3D printing as it relates to patient care.
If implemented correctly, 3D printing promises to improve patient care and enhance the relative contribution to that care by radiologists. Specifically, 3D printing can deliver personalized medicine based on the anatomic data radiologists acquire and interpret every day. Providing such a service offers a new way to interact with referring clinicians and a potential way radiology can demonstrate value in patient care.
Radiologists have witnessed the evolution of medical imaging that allows for 3D printing. Multiplanar imaging with computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging gave rise to 3D reconstructions that improved the evaluation of complex anatomy. At its most basic level, 3D printing takes imaging data from the two dimensions of a computer screen to the three dimensions of the real world.
3D printing has been used in a wide range of healthcare settings including Cardiology, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Critical Care, Gastroenterology, General Surgery, Interventional Radiology, Neurosurgery, Ophthalmology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Otolaryngology, Plastic Surgery, Podiatry, Pulmonology, Radiation Oncology, Transplant Surgery, Urology, and Vascular Surgery.
The most immediate clinical applications of 3D printing are for presurgical planning, intraoperative guidance, and the production of custom implants.
Increasingly, 3D-printed models are also used for educating physicians, trainees, and patients. However, clinical implementation of 3D printing has already faced important challenges, including financial, regulatory, and medicolegal restrictions.
3D printing has faced some challenges including lack of reimbursement as well as the initial time, cost, and personnel required to start a medical 3D printing laboratory.
As more surgeons employ 3D printing technologies for treatment planning, it is important for radiologists to learn about the field and stay abreast of advancements. Because radiologists are responsible for proper image acquisition and interpretation of medical images, which are used to generate 3D-printed models, radiologists have an opportunity to take the lead in this emerging field and through 3D printing can participate more directly in operative planning and patient care.
- Sniderman D. American Society Of Mechanical Engineers 3D printing takes off. American Society Of Mechanical Engineers website. 2012. Available at: http://bit.ly/2vAauKy. Accessed August 30, 2017.
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