Medical 3D Printing: A Boon to the Health Care Industry

Posted on January 16, 2019

Therapy

There was a time not long ago when 3D printing was considered to be nothing more than a niche fad. At the time, 3D printing was also incredibly expensive and limited in its application. Times have changed. Today, 3D printing is helping to transform industries from construction to medicine. Although 3D printing has already been shown to have some real-world applications in health care, the transformative power of this new technology is only beginning to be tested. Medical centers in Suffolk County, NY—including Peconic Bay Medical Center—and their patients will undoubtedly be among those to benefit.

Implants and Splints

The first 3D-printed implant used for kids was an airway splint. That may not seem monumental, but some babies are at an increased risk of their small airways collapsing. 3D-printing technology was able to provide a timely and cost-effective solution for these children, and that was only the beginning.

Millions of people suffer from hearing loss in the United States, and the same is true in many other countries. Health care professionals need to provide cochlear implants and hearing aids to assist patients with advanced hearing loss. Of course, you can't simply produce a factory chain of generic implants. Each patient is different, so the implants must be constructed in a way that's patient-specific. Fortunately, 3D printers can accommodate that need. Patient-specific implants and even prosthesis have been built to assist patients so their hearing may be greatly improved.

Bones

It may seem like science fiction to talk about titanium bones, but it has already become a reality. In August 2017, doctors in Shanghai used a 3D printer to construct a complex replacement for vertebra. It was used to aid a cancer patient and proves to be a real-world example of what's possible with 3D technology.

Skull

Models

Not all 3D-printed materials go into the patient. 3D-constructed models are being used to assist surgeons. This might include something like a 3D-printed skull, ear, or basically any part of the patient's anatomy that would be relevant to the surgery. Surgeons are then able to use the 3D model to plan the procedure much more accurately and carefully, before the patient has even been prepped for surgery. Surgical accidents can cause serious harm to patients, and sometimes lead to death. Safer, more accurate procedures help to protect a patient's health. 3D technology is now a part of that process.

Organs

Organs are the future of bioprinting. Scientists in Madrid have already successfully used 3D-printed skin for transplant in mice. Of course, that's not the same as working with human patients, but it's at least proof of concept. Since skin is already constructed of a series of layers, it's ideal for the layer-by-layer approach already used by 3D printers. Although the realm of 3D bioprinting currently finds kidneys, livers, and hearts relegated to research labs, it won't be much longer until they're available for patients.

Don't be surprised when 3D bioprinting is common practice at a medical diagnostic imaging center in Suffolk County, NY. Contact the health care pioneers at Peconic Bay Medical Center if you'd like to learn more.

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