A new method of 3D printing liver models could help surgeons perform surgeries more accurately and deliver better patient outcomes.
The team at Nottingham Trent University is scanning data from cancer-affected patient organs so clinicians can practice difficult operations on real-life models.
The goal is to familiarize them with the hidden complexity of surgery, which is unique from patient to patient, prior to the actual surgery.
A prototype 3D-printed liver model – based on an anonymized cancer patient – has the tactile properties of a real diseased organ, including imitation blood and different tissue hardnesses, such as the blood vessels, liver tissue and the tumor itself.
The model – made of synthetic gels and fibers – even allows surgeons to practice endoscopies and laser ablation techniques with real surgical instruments, in which arteries are resealed by laser to prevent a patient from bleeding during surgery.
“Surgeons have an incredibly complicated job of removing some tumors to save people’s lives,” said study researcher Richard Arm.
“But due to the limitations of the existing technologies available to them, many surgeons don’t discover the true complexity of surgery until they are in the middle of the live procedure itself.
“Every patient is unique and has organs of different shapes, sizes and constructions, so there can be many hidden complications they face.
” But this study shows how existing scan data and modern 3D printing processing methods can dramatically improve the available preparation before the first incision is made.
“It could give surgeons more confidence and provide patients with better outcomes, such as greater preservation of healthy tissue, reduced risk of infection and faster recovery times.
” The study also considers the potential for teaching cancer surgeons in training in traditional and robotic tumor removal, and could improve robotic surgical interfaces and operator proficiency.
It could also allow surgeons to become more familiar with using robots to perform operations remotely. dr. Christopher Clarke, who provided scan data and medical expertise, said:
“This technology could give surgeons greater confidence in any procedure they perform, by enabling them to better understand an individual patient’s anatomy and potentially reduce the risks to patients.
during what can be incredibly difficult, life-saving surgery.” In 2018, a team of researchers showed how the 3D printing process could be used in the future to create real human tissue to replace blood vessels and organs in patients.