3D printing born in the 1980s but only recently it started to become widely known in the medical field. 3D printing is based on a process that can realize objects by adding material layer by layer, rather than by subtraction from the raw material as is the case with conventional technologies. In orthopedics, this technology can be used in several areas, not just in the most common: preoperative planning.
As mentioned before, 3D printing technology is widely used in preoperative planning in order to manufacture bone models that can be used in complex orthopedic cases. For example, in a complex joint replacement, the surgeon can print a 3D model, know of the possible obstacles, and plan accordingly. Even, in trauma cases, the use of 3D printed replicas of bone fractures is very useful for surgeons and researchers to test methods before the surgery even begins.
3D printing is also helpful to manufacture surgical guides. These guides can be used intraoperatively for taking precise bone cuts. This process decreases the surgical time and has widespread implications for the patient, the surgeon, and the hospital. The duration of the surgery, as well as its efficiency, can be improved while ensuring better outcomes for the patient. Cases like complex deformities can be dealt more efficiently by using specific 3D printed guiding templates that fit directly onto the bone.
Using 3D printing to develop models to be used for training purposes is another example of the use of this technology in the orthopedics field. 3D printed models are useful for patient education because the patients can themselves understand their problem and measures are being taken to rectify the problem.
Improvements in implant design, even small changes, take a long time using normal manufacturing. Now, with 3D printing technology, the designer can quickly modify and develop a new implant. This process is faster and much cheaper than the old implant designing protocols.
The designer can check the prototype for accuracy and can rapidly make necessary changes to the resultant product. Titanium has been approved to be used in these 3D printers and can help manufacture implants.
The 3D printing technology has been used in different areas of medicine, but the field which has been revolutionized the most is the field of orthopedics. It has widespread implications for research, development, and improving surgical outcomes.
This technology is very helpful to reduce costs (related with the surgical time and intraoperative bleeding), and to increase precision and reduce operative and post-operative risks. Another advantage of 3D printing in orthopedics is to give more and better information to the patient, as the surgeon can easily explain what will be done in the operating room.