3D model helps surgeons plan a complex spinal treatment

In complex surgical cases, planning ahead could mean the difference between success and failure. A recent study in Neuromodulation utilized 3D models as a way of allowing surgeons to practice on a patient with a previously untreated spinal condition.

The patient featured in the study could not receive neuromodulation—or an altering of nerve activity through targeted delivery of a stimulus to specific sites in the body—due to complications with his spinal anatomy. Without intrathecal access or an epidural, previous attempts at neuromodulation had failed. To navigate the patient’s unique spinal anatomy, clinicians used 3D printing to print a model of the his lower spine to improve the planning of the procedure and increase the odds of success.

With the opportunity to plan ahead and test different routes of access through the lower spine with the 3D model, clinicians successfully inserted a catheter into the patient and completed neuromodulation.

“Neuromodulation techniques can provide the optimal analgesic techniques for individual patients,” wrote first author Murray G. Taverner MBBS, of Monash University, and colleagues. “At times these can fail due to lack of access to the site for intervention, in this case epidural access. 3D printing may provide additional information to improve the likelihood of access when anatomy is distorted and standard approaches prove difficult.”