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How 3-D Printing Has Helped Advance Reconstructive Surgery

How 3-D Printing Has Helped Advance Reconstructive Surgery
A plastic surgeon details how he uses 3-D printing technology in surgery and preoperative planning.

A plastic surgeon details how he uses 3-D printing technology in surgery and preoperative planning.

Marie Thibault

3-D printing for medtech applications offers many familiar benefits such as quick turnaround, low cost, and customization. But the futuristic technology is also aiding surgeons, making complex operations easier to plan and execute. 

Speaking at the MD&M East Conference in New York City on June 11, Oren Tepper, MD, assistant professor of plastic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and director of craniofacial surgery at Children's Hospital at Montefiore, explained that 3-D printing has made reconstructive surgery easier and more accurate for him.

Tepper noted that besides advantages like personalization, customization, and cost efficiency, 3-D printing has allowed him to use realistic, printed models during surgery planning sessions. These models are created from 3-D CT scans. He also refers to these models during the actual surgery in the operating room. 

In addition, surgical applications of 3-D technology have evolved from simulations, virtual guides, and models, to 3-D printed surgical guides and jigs, Tepper says. He first started using these printed guides, jigs, and templates to place bones during lower jaw reconstructive surgery.

Now, 3-D printed tools are being used for facial trauma reconstruction. Tepper details the steps:

  1. Virtual planning
  2. Modeling—surgical jigs and templates are planned, then printed during this step
  3. Surgical—surgeons place those jigs to hold pieces where they belong

Having these jigs and guides customized and 3-D printed for each patient have been helpful, Tepper says, because it makes clear where pieces fit in place. This is normally a very difficult part of reconstructive plastic surgery because "you dont have any landmarks," he says.

"It's the 3-D printing that really closed the loop . . . being able to match that plan to what you achieve in the operating room," Tepper says.

Marie Thibault is the associate editor at MD+DI. Reach her at [email protected] and on Twitter @medtechmarie


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