3D Print­ing tech­nol­ogy can rev­o­lu­tionise med­i­cal in­dus­try


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Med­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions in 3D print­ing are in­ten­si­fy­ing swiftly and rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the health care in­dus­try. 3D print­ing is a con­vinc­ing new tech­nol­ogy that has the po­ten­tial to trans­form car­diac in­ter­ven­tions. The rule of 3D print­ing is that be­fore surgery, the doc­tor and sur­geons can find out the anatomy of the or­gan. As we get a phys­i­cal pro­to­type of the or­gan, it makes easy and bet­ter di­ag­nos­tics and un­der­stand­ing.

For in­stance, size of heart valve varies from per­son to per­son and with the avail­abil­ity of this tech­nique, it is easy to plan ex­actly the siz­ing. In­dia is at par with rest of the world in terms of med­i­cal ad­vance­ment. In a coun­try like In­dia where there is scarcity of or­gans do­na­tion this tech­nique is quite help­ful and evolv­ing. Around 20 cases per year end up with the use of this tech­nol­ogy in any coun­try, same like In­dia.

Not many cases end up em­ploy­ing the use of 3D, but till now around 1520 cases have used this tech­nol­ogy across In­dia. It is def­i­nitely go­ing to im­prove in In­dia. When we started work­ing upon it since last year, it was dif­fi­cult for us to co­or­di­nate with the print­ing and its tech­nol­ogy but now we are com­pletely able to di­ag­nose and feel easy to use. Sim­i­larly many doc­tors are un­aware of this, but very soon they will come across and will im­prove.

What is 3D Print­ing?

When any ob­ject is man­u­fac­tured by fus­ing or de­posit­ing ma­te­rial like plas­tic, metal, ceram­ics, pow­der or liq­uid, a 3D model is known to be printed. Dr Ajay Kaul, Chair­man and HOD, Car­dio­tho­racic and Vas­cu­lar Surgery at BLK Heart Cen­tre New Delhi, ex­plains, “In the field of med­i­cal sci­ence where there is scarcity of or­gans and tis­sues, sim­i­lar pro­to­types can be gen­er­ated.”

Depend­ing upon the res­o­lu­tion, speed and the type of ma­te­rial used, there is many a way to per­form the print­ing. The 3D ob­jects can be printed in any imag­in­able shape with high pre­ci­sion. Even the 2D ra­dio­graphic im­ages ob­tained through X-Rays, MRI or CT scans can be con­verted to 3D print­able files that help the sur­geon to an­a­lyse even the most com­plex anatom­i­cal model with ease.

3D Print­ing in car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases

In case of pe­di­atric car­di­ol­ogy, where com­plex heart dis­eases re­quire ac­cu­rate anatom­i­cal de­scrip­tion for bet­ter in­ter­pre­ta­tion and cor­rect in­ter­ven­tion. This tech­nol­ogy helps in pro­duc­ing the ex­act replica of the heart which is the most com­plex part to ob­serve oth­er­wise.

The chal­lenges faced in case of 2D in­ter­pre­ta­tion which re­quires sig­nif­i­cant ex­per­tise and highly ex­pe­ri­enced pro­fes­sional sur­geons to in­ter­pret, 3D print­ing solves the pur­pose en­abling sur­geons more in­formed de­ci­sions and plan for pre­cise surgery.

Dr Kaul said, “A phys­i­cal model can be held in real to ex­am­ine and plan var­i­ous as­pects of the surgery that in­cludes ap­proach, in­ci­sion, can­nu­la­tion etc. Such kind of pre-sur­gi­cal plan­ning leads to shorter op­er­a­tive times with lesser com­pli­ca­tions. Tra­di­tional meth­ods may re­quire re-in­ter­ven­tion in some cases, where this model elim­i­nates them and pro­vides shorter car­diopul­monary by­pass time, cir­cu­la­tory ar­rest time and fewer resid­ual le­sions.”

An op­er­at­ing room with such im­prove­ments trans­forms a quicker re­cov­ery and shorter post-op­er­a­tive stay. Util­i­sa­tion of this tech­nol­ogy is grow­ing in In­dia, and, with time, the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of 3D print­ing will evolve dras­ti­cally.

Di­ver­sity in 3D print­ing

Apart from plan­ning and car­ry­ing out com­plex in­ter­ven­tions in con­gen­i­tal heart dis­ease, coro­nary artery dis­ease, and sur­gi­cal and catheter­based struc­tural dis­ease, this has nu­mer­ous ap­pli­ca­tions in var­i­ous fields of med­i­cal sci­ence.

Usu­ally this method is pop­u­lar in plan­ning of heart op­er­a­tion, spine and other or­tho­pe­dic pro­ce­dure. As this has noth­ing to do with the pa­tient’s body dur­ing surgery there are no ill ef­fects on them. Any or­gan or tis­sue can be made in nearly any imag­in­able ge­om­e­try through the trans­la­tion of X-ray, MRI, or CT scans into dig­i­talised 3D print­files.

In the up­com­ing days, this tech­nol­ogy it­self will grow and de­velop with more ad­vanced 3D mod­els along with func­tional mod­els where ma­te­ri­als are more like the or­gans. Func­tional mod­els along with or­gan like ma­te­rial could help us un­der­stand the di­ag­no­sis much bet­ter.

Ad­van­tages over tra­di­tional method

The free­dom to pro­duce im­plants of de­sired size and shape is the great­est ad­van­tage. Mak­ing sur­gi­cal tools as per the re­quire­ment and cus­tomised im­plants and fix­tures have a pos­i­tive im­pact in terms of the time re­quired for surgery, pa­tient re­cov­ery time, and the suc­cess of the surgery.

As the items can be cheaply pro­duced, the tech­nol­ogy be­comes cost ef­fi­cient with the types of ma­te­rial and res­o­lu­tion avail­able. With this tech­nol­ogy, the prod­ucts can be made within hours which are much faster than tra­di­tional meth­ods that make it more re­li­able with en­hanced pro­duc­tiv­ity.

by Ra­jen­dra Ku­mar Rai

Life­size mod­els of af­fected or­gans al­low bet­ter ex­am­i­na­tion and de­ci­sion mak­ing prior to per­form­ing real surgery.

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