Surgical planning using 3D printed bones

Boyd Goldie holding a 3D model of a shoulder

By now you’ve probably heard about 3D printing but may not be quite sure what it’s all about. Perhaps it’s something to do with architecture, engineering or medicine you may think.

One doctor is using 3D printing not only to educate patients about their condition, but also to plan complex surgeries – even using the models during the operation as a guide.

Boyd Goldie, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at The Holly Private Hospital specialises in
upper limb surgery. He treats patients who have a range of upper limb problems in the shoulder, elbow, wrist and arm. Boyd is a pioneer in the use of 3D printers in orthopaedics and has lectured extensively on the subject. He is now putting that experience into his practice.

“With modern radiology software you can get a virtual model on-screen, but there’s nothing like holding a model in your hands.”

To help him prepare for surgery, radiographers take a CT scan of the patient’s problem and save the data to a CD for Dr Goldie to review. He can see a virtual 3D model of the bone on screen, but as he remarks, “There’s nothing like holding a model in your hands, thinking about where it is in the body and working out how you’re going to fix the problem.”

To get a 3D printed model, Mr Goldie converts the medical scan to a printable model using special software. He is then able to print the bone using his 3D printer in a matter of hours – depending on the size of the bone he needs to print.

The end result can provide a host of benefits to both Mr Goldie and the patient. The patient receives a much deeper understanding of their problem and what the doctor is going to do, and some patients find it so enlightening they ask for a copy of the model.

And for Dr Goldie the benefits are quite clear: “A lot of it is to do with me as a surgeon, helping me to plan my operation, plan where I’m going to make my incision and give me a better understanding of what I’m dealing with so I don’t have any surprises when I come to do the operation.”

You can see Mr Goldie talk about surgical planning using 3D printed bones here  

Date: 27/04/2016