This approach to visualizing human anatomy has far reaching implications. Here, we discuss the impact on patient education, but there is more that can be done with respect to physician guidance. Physician education can also be improved as models of the pathology and surrounding tissues can be printed with materials that mimic their appearance and tactile properties. The use of multi-model, multi-material printing to produce patient specific surgical models will enhance the physician’s ability to treat complex problems with the potential to reduce surgical time, reduce collateral damage to surrounding tissue, and improve efficacy of treatments by practicing directly on a model of that patient’s pathology.
Another potential use for efficient formation of segmented models is that of patient-specific bioprinting. Modeling both the healthy and diseased tissue can lead to data useful for bioprinting replacement tissue that can be later implanted to replace or regenerate the affected area. Instead of slicing the model and printing it with plastics, the bioprinting process uses biodegradable plastics and hydrogels to print multiple cell types in organized patterns designed to regenerate specific functional tissues. The implant could be a tissue like liver or a composite set of tissues like muscle, tendon, and bone.
3D Printed anatomical models are beginning to have a significant impact on medicine. The first step for patient specific model printing is segmentation of patient imaging data sets. Simpleware ScanIP makes that process simple and efficient as printable models can be quickly produced from segmented portions of the imaging data. The model of the breast along with a tumor being treated allowed the patient to better understand the diagnosis and subsequent treatment options being proposed by the physicians. The models were also useful for the physicians to better visualize the anatomy of the pathology.