Practicing on 3D-printed models cuts surgery time, costs

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Practicing before a surgery, especially for procedures on children, helps reduce surgery time and costs. In a study published in the Journal of Children's Orthopaedics, engineers and pediatric orthopedic surgeons have utilized 3D printing to help surgeons train for a common hip disorder in children 9 to 16 that cuts surgery times by 25 percent.

A team of bioengineers from the University of California, San Diego and physicians from Rady Children's Hospital was led by Vidyadhar Upasani, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and senior author on the study, used 3D prints of a pelvis from CT scans to mimic the structure encountered during surgery. Using a honeycomb structure to mimic the feeling of bone, the 3D commercial printer was able to print a model in 10 hours.

Slipped capital femoral epiphysis, which affects 11 of every 100,000 children, occurs when a patient’s femur is deformed after it slips along the growth plate. The study enrolled 10 patients, five of whom underwent surgery without their surgeons practicing on a model and five procedures where the surgeons practiced beforehand.

Results showed that the surgeries where the surgeon practiced on the model beforehand were 28 to 45 minutes shorter than the control. This time saved resulted in a savings of $2,700 per surgery.

"Being able to practice on these 3D models is crucial," said Upasani. "I've seen how beneficial 3D models are. It's now hard to plan surgeries without them."