3D Printing Improving Surgery Outcomes at Mayo Clinic

December 02, 2016 06:25 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- For nearly ten years, Rochester’s Mayo Clinic has been creating life-like models of people’s organs, vascular systems, and bones to help with surgery. This is all done using a three dimensional printer, which Mayo Clinic says says the demand for is only growing.

The very first model surgeons created was a liver, and neuroradiologist Dr. Jonathon Morris says the rest was history.


"So then we went into spine models, complex congenital scoliosis cases, from there we went into tumor, and then after we went into tumors we went into cancer, and then there was no turning back," Dr. Morris said.

"One of the things 3D printing does is it brings a lot of those unknowns to a known entity before you enter the [operating room]. Not only does it save time but it allows a surgeon to be more confident," he added.

Many times surgeons will map out the surgery and practice on the model before the operation to help ensure perfection. At times surgeons bring it into the operating room to help them along the way. This not only helps the surgeons but also the patients.  The 3D models allows patients to get a better understanding of the surgery beyond what they can see in an x-ray.

"[You can tell the patient] this is what it looks like on the inside and allow them to hold it and they understand it in a way they normally couldn't understand it," said Dr. Morris.

In March of 2015, ABC 6 News brought you the story of Dr. Michael Slag. He is a doctor in Duluth who was diagnosed with lung cancer, even though he had never smoked in his life.

Mayo Clinic was able to create a model of his right chest plate to show where the tumor was, and how it looked.

"I saw the 2D images, the MRIs and the CTs, and I do have the ability to have some spatial understanding, but this makes it quite real,” said Dr. Slag in March, 2015.

Dr. Morris says the sky is the limit for the future of 3D printing at Mayo Clinic, and that some weeks the printer does not stop.  He says that’s a good thing, to help everyone involved with the life-changing and life-saving surgeries.

"You know not only do you see the object, but just by holding it and feeling it, it increases your perceptual awareness of it so that kind of thing is not possible without 3D printing," Dr. Morris said.


Ben Henry

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