3D printing is being used more and more in the medical industry and is helping doctors and surgeons to prepare for procedures with realistic replicas of organ structures and bones by using 3D printed parts. Nottingham Trent University researchers are 3D printing replicas of human spines for this exact purpose.
By printing realistic vertebrates and spinal discs they’re allowing students and trainees to learn in a safe and calm environment while still simulating a life-like procedure. This could improve the outcomes for real patients undergoing spinal surgeries.
Inside of the vertebrate is a softer cancellous bone, which the researchers replicated with soft foam. The outside is a harder cortical bone which was printed using a polylactic acid (PLA) material. The spinal discs on the replica were made of silicone.
The researchers are able to print spines with specific problems like scoliosis and use those to practice on. They can also use it to practice procedures such as laminectomies, trapped nerve relief, and the removal of bone structures.
It’s very important for surgeons to be thoroughly prepared before going into spinal surgery, because one small mistake in a real surgery could be catastrophic for the patient. In the future the researchers plan to print bones with varying strengths to help prepare surgeons for operating on people with diseases like osteoporosis.
Haria, Rushabh. “Lifelike 3D Printed Backbone Replicas Will Prepare Surgeons for Spinal Operations.” 3D Printing Industry, 3 Oct. 2017, 3dprintingindustry.com/news/3d-printed-backbone-replicas-prepare-surgeons-spinal-operations-122249/.
Human Spine 3D Models, www.3dscience.com/3D_Models/Human_Anatomy/Skeletal/Human_Spine.php.