3D printing and 3D software have made a tremendous difference in the medical world, from 3D printed medical models to complex software that allows medical professionals to plan and practice tricky surgeries before operating for real. GE Healthcare, which has been working to simplify the preparation of 3D printed medical models, recently introduced a new software that makes creating and 3D printing 3D organ models a more intuitive process. Taking data from CT scans, the software converts the images into files that can be used to 3D print models of hearts, kidneys, lungs, livers, etc.
West Kendall Baptist Hospital in Miami was among the first hospitals to begin using GE Healthcare’s software.
“This model of the heart very intuitively and clearly depicts the coronary vessels,” said Dr. Ricardo Cury, Director of Cardiac Imaging at the hospital. “It is helpful, especially with all the landmarks ahead of time, to facilitate the discussion among the clinical team on procedure planning, the optimal approach and the materials.”
Although 3D printed medical models are becoming more common, it hasn’t always been an easy process to create them, usually requiring specialized staff or the outsourcing of models to service bureaus. The process required that the CT images be manually generated, converted and compressed into 3D printable files.
“They had to use tools that were not necessarily designed with medical imaging or medical practitioners in mind,” said Amy Deubig, Global Product Marketing Manager at GE Healthcare. “The feedback we heard was that the tools weren’t user-friendly, nor were they integrated into their routine workflow.”
GE Healthcare’s 3D printing software works seamlessly with GE Advantage Workstation systems, which are being used by hospitals around the world. When a CT scan is taken, the anatomy is then rendered as a 3D image using GE’s Volume Viewer software, a 3D imaging platform that combines data from sources like CT, MRI and X-ray. The software then converts the image file generated by the Volume Viewer and translates it into a 3D printable file within seconds.
“In the past, it would take several days to get the images back,” said Dr. Cury. “The advantage of the new software is it’s in the same workstation where the technologists already do work on 3D images. The steps are a lot quicker and easier.”
More than 100 hospitals have ordered the software, which can be used to 3D print models of any organ as well as bones and muscles. According to GE Healthcare, as more and more hospitals use the software, it will become easier for doctors to share files with each other and have 3D models available for planning and education. More and more patients will also benefit, as their doctors and surgeons plan their surgeries ahead of time and can thus make the procedures quicker, safer and more precise. GE Healthcare’s software is a huge step toward lowering the barrier to entry to this kind of technology, and enabling any healthcare professional to 3D print complex medical models in a streamlined, push-of-a-button way.
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