3D-Print Lab at University-Hospital Basel
I was visiting Dr. med. et med. dent. Florian Thieringer, senior CMF consultant and Head of the Medical Additive Manufacturing Research Group (MAM).
Dr. med. et med. dent. Florian Thieringer has a clear passion for Additive Manufacturing. As a surgeon, Florian realised the benefits of applying AM for medical applications. Using 3D printing enables the surgeon to see and feel the bone structure, prior surgery or checking the fit of implants and guides. All these possibilities are significant advantages for the surgeon preparing the surgery. But the models are not only useful in the theatre. Florian explained to me how valuable the models are when it comes to explaining procedures to the patients. A physical model in hand makes patients more easily understand what the problem is and how the surgery will be conducted. Again, saving time and avoiding misunderstandings.
Florian partnered up with his colleagues from the radiology department. These colleagues are providing the 3D-imaging, the input data for the 3D printers. Together they started a 3D-Print Lab in the University Hospital of Basel. Now, medical models can be ordered internally, instead of sourcing these externally at high cost from service bureaus. Lower costs and shorter lead times making the technology way more easily accessible for the surgeons. To ease the process, Florian and his colleagues from the 3D-Print Lab created a direct link in the hospital IT-system. So every colleague at the hospital can easily inquire about 3D printed models directly.
The machines used are in the consumer and prosumer level. Combined with professional software (FDA approved), precision and quality requirements can be met while keeping costs low. Larger models can be printed in sections on several machines overnight, think of ‘distributed manufacturing’. Florian showed me their gallery with collected models of their work. Interesting was a skull section, used for pre-bending of a standard plate to fix an orbital-floor-fracture. This surgery requires high precision as the orbital floor is the fragile bone wall which is supporting the eyeball. Even small inaccuracies would result in a misalignment of the eye.
So it is possible to use a (comparable cheap) polymer extrusion printer to create medical models. But with a geometrical accuracy certainly good enough to use as a jig to pre-bend a standard implant into the shape needed, matching the patient’s physiology. The implant is then sterilised and taken to the theatre. Florian pointed out the other option is to simply sterilise the model take it into the theatre and form the plate right there.
The results speak for themselves. Improved outcomes of operations by custom specific and geometrical accurate implants, a reduction of the stress for the surgeon, time saved in the theatre and overall a reduction in costs.
The success of the team has also impressed the hospital management, which will now provide a more space and more funding for the 3D Print Lab.
Dr. med. et med. dent. Florian Thieringer also head of ‘Medical Additive Manufacturing research group’ short MAM. The organisation connects experts in Medical Additive Manufacturing and helps to spread the word of using AM in medical applications. Check it out: http://www.swiss-mam.ch/
Written by Matthias Bringezu