3D Printed Polymer Livers Help Guide Surgeons

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A few weeks ago we published an article on how a 3D printed heart model helped doctors save the life of a young child who suffered from numerous cardiac ailments. Today, another story broke, having to do with the 3D printing of precise organ models.

liver-2Dr. Nizar Zein, the chief of hepatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and his team, have been working with 3D technology for some time. They are using 3D printers to print out a polymer based replica of patient’s livers prior to surgery. Doing this allows surgeons to reference a non living model of the liver during an operation, which acts as a guide during complicate procedures such as transplants and tumor removal.

“We provide the surgeons with a physical model that is 100 percent identical to what they will encounter in surgery when they operate,” said Dr. Nizar Zein, the chief of hepatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “It takes away some of the potential surprises that will be found at the time of surgery. We believe we actually avoided some complications this way.”

The polymer livers are printed with a clear material, and dye is then injected into the blood vessels and bile ducts of the model. During many liver surgeries, doctors are not 100% certain where the three main veins of the liver are located. This is because of inaccuracies that 2D images of MRIs and CT scans provide. An exact model created from these 2d images liver-1and printed out via a 3D printer allow surgeons to get a full visual of where every important feature of the liver resides.

These 3D printed livers have already been used in approximately 30 different procedures, and have played a major factor in the surgeon’s decision making. In fact, in several cases, the blueprint of the surgery changed based on the visuals doctors got from the model. An example would be when a doctor noticed a tumor was too close to a main vein of the liver, and decided to leave certain areas untouched.

The researchers are now turning their attention to the use of 3D printing with other more complicated facial and hand surgeries, as well as pancreas transplant surgery. Discuss these 3d printed livers at the forum.

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