AMS Spring 2023

“Grey’s Anatomy” Prominently Features Medical 3D Printing Technology

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Gray’s Anatomy, the textbook of human anatomy originally written by Henry Gray and illustrated by Henry Vandyke Carter, was widely regarded as the seminal work on the subject and it’s still revised and republished today.

Since its publication in 1858, it has served as a crucial guide to doctors and surgeons in their daily work, but it’s a safe bet that Gray and Carter didn’t see it coming that their work would one day influence hospital dramas like ABC’s hit “Grey’s Anatomy,” and less likely still that they’d foresee that show discovering 3D printing.

Now that 3D printing technology has reached into the operating theater,  the American consciousness, and even into living rooms in the heartland, Gray and Carter would surely be proud.

Greys Anatomy 3d printerThe doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial were featured using 3D printing in one episode from season 10 where Dr. Yang 3D prints a “portal vein,” and Dr. Grey attempts to 3D print a heart. In fact, at the end of that episode, Dr. Yang discovers that, on her trip to Switzerland, 3D printing is widely used by medical professionals there.

greyspart2One Dr. Burke goes as far as to say Dr. Yang’s dream is to build fully-functional, 3D printed hearts.

And the series is at it again with an appearance from a CubeX 3D printer which the Grey’s staff used to build a customized heart and liver model. The model of a patient’s heart and liver used on the show was designed and 3D printed by 3D Systems in conjunction with their entertainment division, Gentle Giant Studios, and it was printed by their medical solutions division, Medical Modeling.

Medical Modeling was built on the idea that medical imaging studies could be used for diagnosis and to drive clinical treatment, and they’ve developed surgical planning and clinical transfer tools. To date, the company has worked with surgeons around the world on tens of thousands of cases. They were also acquired by 3DS in April 2014, becoming part of the larger 3D printing revolution.

At this stage, engineering-based solutions for reconstructive surgical problems are a part of the standard medical tool kit, and customized prosthetics are common.

greys-anatomyMedical Modeling says 3D printing is used in hospitals around the world for applications ranging from surgical pre-visualization to treatment planning and training.

To make the heart model, the team used a ProJet 660Pro, taking the idea from a photo of a simple sketch on a napkin to a fully-printed model in just four days.

3DS says the anatomically correct, full-color model needed to fit the script, appear life-like, and be fully 3D printable. The creation process took place through a number of design iterations during which the “Grey’s Anatomy” production team reviewed the models and provided feedback, and the Medical Modeling team used Geomagic Freeform software to create the finished product.

Now that prime-time television has embraced the medical uses of 3D printing, how long do you think it will be before patients are asking to see models to help them understand their treatment options? Let us know in the Grey’s Anatomy Medical 3D Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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