Research shows tremendous value of using 3D-printed models for pre-surgical planning

Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, but a study involving 3D-printed anatomical models for pre-surgical planning suggests that their use can achieve more than perfection in the operating room—they may cause surgeons to rethink the procedure itself. 

3D printed renal model
Image of 3D-printed renal model courtesy Dr. Nicole Wake and Materialise.

Urologists at the New York University School of Medicine researched the benefits of using 3D-printed kidney models in patient treatment, recounts a blog post from Materialise, a company that has been developing 3D-printing technology and associated software and engineering since 1990 from its headquarters in Leuven, Belgium.

The researchers, led by Dr. Nicole Wake, selected 10 cases that represented at least mid-level complexity in terms of the tumor and the surgical procedure required to remove it. “For each of these renal mass cases, the surgeons first proposed a surgical plan based on medical scans only,” writes Materialise. “In a second step, each surgeon formed a new surgical plan with a 3D-printed renal model in hand. And finally, the surgeons completed a questionnaire about their surgical approach and planning, with and without the 3D-printed anatomical model.” In all cases, the 3D-printed models resulted in a change in pre-operation planning and, in some instances, led to a dramatic change in the surgical approach. To wit:

  • Two surgeons changed from a proposed radical nephrectomy to a partial nephrectomy in a total of three cases;
  • A minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure, instead of open surgery, appeared to be the better option for two surgeons in one of their cases;
  • The transperitoneal or retroperitoneal approach was changed in 30% of all cases by the three urologists;
  • One surgeon changed the clamping approach in 50% of the cases and two other surgeons in 40% of cases.

The researchers concluded that “even experienced urologists may potentially benefit from 3D-printed models for the planning of complex surgeries.”

The models were fabricated based on MRI scans, which were virtually reconstructed using Materialise Mimics software and 3D printed with translucent materials supplied by Materialise. 

Find out what’s new and what’s coming in 3D printing at the 3D Printing Summit at this year’s PLASTEC East event in New York City in June. Go to the PLASTEC East website to learn more about the event and to register to attend.

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