Local News

3D models enhance surgical strategies

Posted September 10, 2015 6:38 p.m. EDT
Updated September 10, 2015 6:45 p.m. EDT

Medical imaging has improved by leaps and bounds, now allowing images to do more than appear on a flat screen.

With the new technological advances, doctors can create a detailed model of a patient’s heart and hold it in their hands.

Standard models of hearts represent the structure, but now 3D computer models allow for detailed copies from real patients.

To create the 3D copies, CT or MRI imaging is translated into digital data to create 3D computer models.

WRAL’s Dr. Allen Mask said more orthopedic surgeons are using 3D printed knee replacement parts tailored to the patient’s knee and shape, rather than using standard knee replacement parts.

“Virtually any body part that can be scanned can be reduced to digital information and fed to a printer which builds it layer by layer,” Mask said.

Duke digital media engineer Chip Bobbert takes data and feeds the information into a unique 3D printing device. An innovation lab uses a variety of materials, including different types of plastic.

“Anything that’s in liquid form and cures into a solid, we can print it,” Bobbert said. “It represents an entirely new way of understanding the anatomy.”

Dr. Piers Barker said the models can enhance planning and practice of surgical strategies.

“It's also fantastic to be able to take these models and show to families, instead of drawing a picture,” Barker said. “You can really take individualized medicine to an entirely new level.”

The new technology is able to get the most of non-invasive imaging so doctors can improve results once they make incisions to repair problems.