Mar 18 2019

3D Printing Programs Fuel a Model Approach to Care

Advanced technologies help providers create prototypes that enhance clinician prep and education.

When Justin Ryan, Ph.D., director of the 3D Innovations Lab at Rady Children’s Hospital–San Diego, attends 3D printing conferences, he likes to talk to prop designers who are developing zombie heads or fake limbs for movies.

“They can teach me an incredible amount about how to create advanced simulators,” Ryan says.

Using 3D printers, medical professionals can create models of a patient’s case that then can be used to help plan and practice a procedure — in some cases so advanced that the models can bleed stage blood.

At Rady Children’s, doctors leverage tools, including HP’s Jet Fusion 500/300 Series 3D printers, to print models for both new and previous cases. That allows them to use specific prototypes for teaching and discussion purposes well after a procedure has taken place.

“It’s really giving clinicians and the surgical team more information,” Ryan says. “When they set foot in the operating room, they know exactly what that child’s airway or that child’s heart is going to look like when they operate. The more information and better the plan, the better the procedure.”

MORE FROM HEALTHTECH: Carnegie Mellon University engineers turned a MakerBot 3D printer into a -low-cost 3D bioprinter.

3D Printing Translates to Better Patient Experiences

Everything from prosthetic limbs to replacement hips and knees can now be custom-made to fit the patient, a trend that Alan S. Louie, research director of life sciences at IDC Health Insights, expects to continue. That helps to create customer solutions, which can increase efficiency to provide better patient experiences.

With hip replacements, for instance, traditional implants come in large, medium or small sizes, and then either the replacement or the bone must be trimmed to fit.

“In the case of 3D printing, you are now designing a device that more accurately fits the internal cavity of the individual and therefore lessens the amount of fitting that needs to take place,” Louie says. “It leads to less pain for the patient and less recovery time.”

MORE FROM HEALTHTECH: Is 3D printing a medical revolution?

3D Printing Innovation Spaces Encourage New Developments

In 2015, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston opened the first site of a medical makerspace in the U.S.

The space has supported projects from over 60 different clinical units and academic programs within the UTMB campus. What’s more, since its inception, more than 150 projects have been developed by a variety of individuals from UTMB, including point-of-care nurses, physicians, speech pathologists, researchers and students.

Any creation that touches a patient must first go through the organization’s internal review board.

“We are demystifying technology and showing people how to use tools who maybe don’t think of themselves as an inventor or a designer or an engineer, someone who’s technically apt,” says Aisen Caro Chacin, manager of the UTMB MakerHealth Space. Chacin provides education on how to use tools such as the 3D printer and laser cutter. She also teaches individuals about the best methods for collaborating on their ideas. For instance, she helped a registered nurse at UTMB develop a printed tool to help improve tube flow control on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, which replaces the function of the heart and the lungs.

“We designed it and printed it in less than two hours,” Chacin says.

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