Monday, 5 February 2018

Medical 3-D printing is 'future of surgery'

Medical 3-D printing is 'future of surgery' 

One day in the not-too-distant future, your surgeon might be able to give you new bones, joints, even soft-tissue organs that were "printed" in-house.
It sounds like something out of "Westworld," the HBO sci-fi series where humanoid robots are 3-D-printed. But Southeast Michigan hospitals are working on the cutting edge of medical innovation to make it a reality.

At the University of Michigan, doctors and researchers led by otolaryngologist Glenn Green, M.D., are working on nearly 30 medical 3-D projects that are customized to help individual patients.
UM's most successful implantable 3-D procedure is a medical 3-D-created biodegradable splint device to treat a rare life-threatening airway disorder that mostly occurs in babies called tracheobronchomalacia. The disorder causes the windpipe to periodically collapse and prevents normal breathing.

The manufactured splint device using one of UM's 30 3-D printers is sewn around a floppy airway area in the neck to provide support and protection during airway growth. Over three years, the splint is absorbed by the body. UM has treated a total of 15 patients from the ages of three months up to 70, said Green, who practices at UM's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

"We think (medical 3-D printing) is the next great revolution in surgery," said Green. "It is still in the early stage where we are trying to work everything out. There isn't reimbursement for most of it. It is a key problem we are working on."
UM is not the only hospital in the region working to bring 3-D medical printing into the operating room. Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak are also working on their own applications for this transformational technology.

Medical 3-D future

Hospitals are already using medical 3-D printing technology. Most often, an FDA-approved machine is used to create precise replicas of skulls, jaws, hearts and valves, knee and hip implants, fibulas and even sports shoe inserts and hearing aids.

The 3-D printed models help doctors plan and practice complex heart, orthopedic, facial and pulmonary procedures. The models are also used for patient and family education. Prices vary, but most models cost between $300 and $10,000 and are made out of plastic, ceramic, titanium or compressible metal mesh, in the case of aortic or mitral valve replacement parts.

But medical 3-D printing technologies may one day be used to manufacture artificial veins, muscles, limbs, cells, tissues, skin and other organs. Researchers are experimenting with printing human tissue and organs by layering living cells instead of plastic or titanium, a process called bioprinting. Regenerative medicine researchers at Wake Forest University are already using human cells instead of polymers to print organs using an advanced Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System.

The ability to print human tissue could have a huge impact on such things as pharmaceutical research, organ transplants, surgical operations and reconstructive surgery.
Bioprinting could allow hospitals to become "manufacturing centers" of living tissues, said Eric Myers, a product designer at the Henry Ford Innovation Institute. "They will be able to make a sheet of skin for a burn patient or full ears made out of cartilage."
"Another future application is new drugs," Myers said. "Instead of taking a generic pill, a pharmacist makes one using a 3-D print to match a patient's specific needs that has a time release function," he said.

Researchers believe practical use of these advances could be 10 to 20 years away. But the future might get here quickly.
Bryan Crutchfield, general manager of Materialise North America in Plymouth, a medical 3-D implant and model manufacturer, said the technology is rapidly advancing as researchers seek answers for difficult patient care problems.

Printing speeds for the sophisticated machines are doubling and tripling each year, enabling doctors to move surgery schedules ahead. And the types of polymers and biocompatible powders than can be used as raw material to create the models are multiplying.

Materialise operates more than a dozen medical 3-D printers — ranging in cost from $100,000 to $800,000 — and creates orthopedic models for more than 500 hospital and medical customers in the U.S., including more than a dozen in Michigan.
"We take CT and MRI images, which are slices of the body, (and) we can recreate 3-D models of a patient's anatomy and then allow clinicians to take those models and use in approaches to treatment," Crutchfield said. "Doctors can pre-plan those surgeries using software. It helps improve patient education (and) patient outcomes because it takes less time in surgery and you can plan ahead to execute it."

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