Recently, the Biodonostia Health Research Institute partnered with Tecnun and Tknika to help its surgeons harness Stratasys’ Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology in surgical preparation and planning. This puts together a multidisciplinary team that provides high-quality 3D printed models on demand for the hospital. Tecnun will work on the segmentation and reconstruction of the models whereas Tknika will complete the final 3D printed versions.
Dr. Jon Zabaleta, Thoracic Surgeon at Biodonostia, said that 3D printing is an essential surgical tool. Previously, none of the 3D printed models which they created in-house could meet the level of detail and accuracy that they needed. However, the technology creates highly-accurate, patient-specific 3D models within 24 hours. This allows them to improve patient care by reducing the time taken during surgeries, especially when treating complex thoracic wall tumours.
These tumours, located on the chest wall, cause painful swelling and breathing difficulties. Dr. Zabaleta and his team came across a 64-year-old man with a complicated and painful tumour on his thoracic wall which had grown up his chest cavity and spread across multiple ribs over 2 years. They were concerned about the patient’s respiratory function and needed to act quickly. Dr. Zabaleta explained that conventionally, they would remove the affected ribs and correct the defect by covering the area with a titanium plate. The plates have standard sizes, either designed for men of 100 KG or women of 50 KG, and need to be altered and rotated during surgery to suit each patient specification. In a complicated surgery, this adds hours to the operating time.
Removing multiple ribs would increase the risk of the surgery. Therefore, the team needed to devise a method to maintain movement and flexibility in the patient’s chest while fixing the defect with sufficient strength to protect his lungs. They worked with Tecnun and Tknika to plan the surgery by using a 3D printed model. According to Dr. Zabaleta, by creating a precise, anatomically-accurate 3D printed model of the thoracic wall, they could plan and perform the resection on the 3D model before the surgery. This allowed them to measure the screws and pre-bend the titanium plates in advance, reducing the operating time by 2 hours. As such, the patient benefits from a significant reduction in time under anaesthesia, and the hospital frees up time in operating rooms, thus saving costs.
Tecnun and Tknika converted a CT scan of the patient’s thoracic wall and tumour into a 3D printable model. As it needed to be strong enough to replicate human bone, it was 3D printed out of an engineering-grade thermoplastic on the Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D printer. Dr. Zabaleta said that the FDM technology enables them to produce a large and complex model that was incredibly strong and mimics real bones. The 3D printed model relives the patient’s anxiety before the surgery, making the surgical consult more efficient.
With the partnerships, Biodonostia aims to provide 3D printed models to 23 Spanish hospitals. Dr. Zabaleta believes that hospitals should adopt Stratasys’ FDM 3D printing for surgical planning so that patient care can be improved via innovation. He encourages the use of 3D printed models for pancreatic tumours, airway stenosis, and training of future surgeons.