3D printed organ model
3D printed organ model
Anatomy training is the latest sector to incorporate 3D printing, allowing medical students to physically examine replica body parts.
This latest advancement, which has been reviewed in-depth in a recent Medical Science Educator report, could revolutionise how medicine is taught. It could remove the need for cadavers and other physical models, meaning a cheaper, less unpleasant option is being selected.
“There is a lot of interest from researchers and educators at both Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University in using 3D-printed models to teach anatomy,” said co-author Ryan Klatte, Principal Research Engineer, who oversees 3D printing at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute.
The report goes on to state, “The technology has advanced tremendously over the past two decades. 3D-printed models may enable anatomy students to learn more precisely and more efficiently than any other modelling method.”
Human cadavers have long been the standard method of human anatomy study. But human cadavers bring financial and logistical concerns, such as storage and proper disposal. On some occasions, cadaveric anatomy does not present consistently, which can cause confusion among students.
Physical models, manufactured before the inclusion of 3D printing methods, resolved some of the issues that came with cadavers. Fabricated models allow students to examine in more detail, but not complete detail. Some models often do not depict the variety of anatomical anomalies. Cost, storage, security and maintenance are other considerations.
Digital 3D models, viewable on screen, can be easily altered to depict disease progression or organ development, setting them apart from physical models. Adding up a 3D printer, which can swiftly print the object on screen as and when it is altered, can advance the tuition of medical students further. Reproducing the digital model with resin, thermoplastics, photopolymers or other materials, detailed physical models can be printed in hours.
“3D printing builds physical objects by stacking material layer by layer,” adds Klatte. “Different materials or colours can be used, allowing the construction of complex models with hard, soft, opaque and transparent components.”
In addition to customising anatomy lessons, 3D-printed models can be used for teaching pathology and radiology. Comparing CT images to their 3D-modelled and printed counterparts allows students to confirm findings and better understand the clinical implications of the image.
The reduced cost of 3D printers is meaning an increased role in healthcare. Yet, printing resolution remains a concern, since the costlier printers unsurprisingly bring a higher resolution. But as Klatte notes, improvement resolution is coming quickly.
“In many fields, technology has become better, faster and cheaper. We anticipate the same trend in 3D printing,” he said. “At some point, a patient-specific, 3D-printed model could very well become less expensive than a generic, off-the-shelf model. Instructors could potentially print one model per student, possibly in material that can be dissected. It’s not unlikely that 3D printing will one day make cadavers obsolete.”