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3D modelling in high-technology medical care

3D modelling in high-technology medical care

3D printed models help rehearse foot surgery.


St. Petersburg’s Pirogov High-Technology Medical Clinic is implementing rehearsal operations made on 3D models. This method allows to practise all the possible details of the would-be surgery.

Models of arms, feet and body parts are made of plastic and polymer materials using a 3D printer in the laboratory on the ground floor of the Pirogov High-Technology Medical Clinic of the St. Petersburg State University.

High-precision 3D models are used to rehearse operations. The first stage of the process is making a computer tomogram of the organ to be operated on, for example, the foot.

Nikita Akulaev, scientist at the laboratory, explains how a 3D model is made. The computer image is developed into a 3D model and sent to the printer. 3D printing takes some 20 hours, after which a copy of the patient’s foot with all its deformities is ready for the doctors to study it and see what is wrong with it.

After studying the 3D model, an experienced surgeon can make a step-by-step plan of the operation beforehand, with all movements and actions with surgical instruments computer calculated thus minimizing the risk of an error.

Alexander Apanasenko, head of the additive and bioengineering laboratory of the clinic, gives technical details on using metal and plastic guides and transferring coordinates from the 3D model to the human organ. Transfer is done by positioning against some bone irregularities, which serve as control points.

The result is repeatable, which means that Alexander, who is not a surgeon, has been able to make simple operation on a model using the guide. Experienced surgeons say that such technologies are essential when operating certain deformities.

According to Kirill Turbin, orthopedic surgeon and traumatologist, the statistics show that operations which had been rehearsed using models and guides are more precise and more consistent with the patient’s specific anatomy and the final results are much better.

Experts believe that these technologies are the future of surgery. The next steps will be developing more precise models that will include tendons and nerves, and, further on, using 3D printing in neurosurgery and finally making fully functional titanium prostheses for the most complicated cases.