“Out of Nothing…Something”
Out of the corner of the room comes a soft whirring. When the whirring began, there was nothing. Hours later, and another medical innovation is ready—a patient-specific, anatomical model that will help a physician to plan and practice surgery on a patient’s unique anatomy, providing better care, saving time and money in the process.
The whirring machine is a 3-D printer. It’s the new kid on the block, and it is making a big difference in quality health care. “We’ve had a 3-D printer at Spectrum Health Innovations for a few years, and we are seeing great interest across the system in what it can do,” says Scott Daigger, MBA, NPDP, senior project specialist, SHI. “A lot of research has gone into how 3-D printing can benefit health care systems. The patient-specific models produced can make a difference particularly in rare and/or complex surgical cases. Current use at Spectrum Health Innovations is to develop prototypes for medical device ideas.” Daigger says 3-D printing has been shown to be especially useful in pre-surgical planning, giving surgeons the ability to get their hands, literally, a manufactured model of the patient’s internal anatomy and allow for practice sessions, if needed. Physicians can prepare precise surgical guides based on these models. The surgical models can also be used for educational purposes—for residents in training, but also for educating patients by using the models to explain the procedure they will undergo. Models can even replicate soft tissue, such as flesh, and hard tissue, such as bone, in the same model.
“There’s no equivalent to being able to view and hold a model in your hands,” Daigger says.
Daigger says that research is also accumulating that, by using 3-D models for surgical planning, surgeons see shortened time in surgery and less blood loss. “We work closely with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital’s Congenital Heart Center, which also has a 3-D printer,” Daigger says. “We recently worked on a case together where an expecting mom had a baby with an anomaly. Even before the baby was born, we were able to use medical imaging to create a 3-D print of the baby, so that the surgical team could go into the delivery with a plan on how best to help treat the newborn.”
On the business, or clinical side, Daigger says the use of 3-D printing has an impact by improving outcomes, reducing time in surgery, improving resident training, and helping patients be better informed about their conditions and upcoming procedures. According to a case study by the National Center for Biotechnology Center, time saved in surgery by using 3-D models for surgical planning can be as much as two-thirds. Results also show improved accuracy.
Together with Eric Van Middendorp, MSE, biomedical engineer at SHI, the two are currently conducting a pilot study to gauge interest in the use of 3-D printer models throughout Spectrum Health. “We are talking with physicians across the organization to determine their needs and evaluate the merit in potentially creating a centralized, system-wide 3-D printing lab,” Daigger says.
“We’re hearing a lot of interest in using this new technology. There’s a lot of excitement. By early 2019, we hope to have a strong idea of what we need to meet growing demands.”
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