The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been one of the country’s biggest and busiest embracers of 3D printing.
Making headlines seemingly every few months for the steady expansion of their additive manufacturing programs and efforts, the VA has been busy printing artificial lungs, establishing a shared network across its many hospitals, and even training veterans themselves to master the technology.
This month, the agency is in the news again for expanding its efforts to a common problem area for many veterans: the shoulder.
Shoulder To Shoulder With The Latest In 3D Printing
Especially in the aged and well-worked, shoulders can require replacing for a number of reasons.One of the biggest is advanced arthritis in the shoulder joint, the ball and socket that connects the shoulder blade to the upper arm bone. A painful condition, undergoing shoulder replacement surgery is the usual recommendation should other treatments (like physical therapy, lifestyle changes, or corticosteroid shots) fail to lessen the pain. The surgery involves cutting open the rotator cuff muscle in order to give surgeons access to the joint. There, operators remove the arthritic joint sections and install the replacement prosthetic. Usually, this prosthetic is a metal ball attached to a “stem”, which rests inside a new plastic socket.
Despite being a common surgery, shoulder joint sockets are a notoriously difficult area to prepare for and operate on due to the involved bones’ small nature.
By utilizing 3D printing, VA orthopedic surgeons can now scan and print models of each individual patient’s affected shoulder. Looking at a printed 3D model instead of an on-screen rendering or 2D print allows surgeons to get a clearer understanding of a patient’s specific anatomy before operating. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of complications during the surgery, it ideally means more efficient operations and also higher recovery rates.
Beyond Just Shoulders
Shoulder surgery models and data, and the other medical uses the VA has been implementing are shared among a network used by 20 VA hospitals. In addition to better modeling for use in pre-surgery preparation, the robust network allows for same-day printing, fitting, and delivery to patients in need of specialized orthotics. The network is through a partnership with Stratasys, and is one of the first shared 3D printing hospital networks in the country.
“VA remains at the forefront of innovative work in 3D printing by expanding our expertise across VA,” says Agency secretary Robert Wilkie. “Through this growing virtual network, VA continues to help define how 3D printing technology will be used broadly in medicine for the benefit of patients.”
Across its 1,700 dedicated care centers, the VA sees and treats about 8.75 million veterans every year.
Discuss this news, and other 3D printing topics, at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.
You May Also Like
Launcher’s New Orbital Transfer Vehicle to Rideshare on SpaceX Falcon 9 in 2022
Launcher’s new orbit transfer vehicle (OTV) will debut on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare for its inaugural flight to Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) in October 2022. Known as Launcher Orbiter, the...
SpaceX Successes Drive off-Earth Innovation, So Do Its Failures
After a highly anticipated test launch, SpaceX‘s Starship SN11 prototype finally lifted off for a planned test flight. Climbing up from out of the cloud deck at the company’s South...
From Magnets to Harpoons: How to Catch Space Debris
The world’s first commercial test mission to locate and remove space debris has finally launched to space. On March 22, 2021, Astroscale’s End-of-Life Services demonstration (ELSA-d) mission took off from...
Relativity Space Preparing for Next Year’s Rocket Launch with New VP and Verified 3D Printing Tech
In the last few years, there has been excitement for the new race to the moon. But as deadlines for rocket launches and crewed missions get closer, space companies begin...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.