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University of Michigan Surgeons Trained Using 3D Printed Body Parts

The Engineer reports on a new program at the University of Michigan.  This program was investigated by a team of researchers, whose findings have just been published in the journal Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

“The researchers examined the effectiveness of a physical simulator exercise using a 3D printed costal cartilage grafting tool, with most participants highly rating its realism.”

In other words, trainee surgeons at Michigan Medicine used 3D printed body parts in order to practice “for complicated procedures such as airway and ear reconstruction for children.  Reconstructive cartilage grafting is a technique usually performed by advanced surgeons, making training a challenge.”

“In the past, skills have been acquired on live patients, anaesthetized animals, or human cadavers, but the medical community is looking increasingly to 3D printing to help simulate surgery.”

As Dr. David Zopf, the article’s senior author and a pediatric head and neck surgeon at CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan explains, “3D printing is bringing a whole new meaning to hands-on experience for surgeons in training.  Hands-on experience is critical for acquiring and improving surgical skills, especially of new and complex procedures.  This is an exciting tool that not only offers trainees exposure to opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have, but also allows them to demonstrate proficiency of skills before being performed on children.”  In order to ascertain these results, the team organized “eighteen surgical trainees from Michigan [to participate in the exercise.]”

One of these trainees, Cher Zhao, concluded: “you only get one chance to carve a harvested graft from a patient’s rib, so you have to do it perfectly the first time.  It takes years of practice to learn the technical skills to do it.  This was a very realistic experience and what’s great is you can keep printing dozens of these models at a time so you can practice over and over again.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Engineer and Michigan Medical

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