3D Printing Takes Personalized Precision Medicine to New Dimensions
The 3D printing lab at Sheba, headed by Dr. Dina Orkin, prints individualized prosthetic limbs, precise organ replicas and custom designed surgical tools. The technology is on the fast track to revolutionize the face of conventional medicine.
The outcomes have been impressive, leading Dr. Orkin to believe that the future of orthopedic surgery lies in 3D printed components, as opposed to mass produced elements that cannot provide a perfect fit for each patient.
Omer, a five-year-old boy suffering from Ewing sarcoma, is one amazing example of just how Sheba implemented 3D printing as a true game-changer for his quality of life. Ewing sarcoma forms in bone and soft tissues, and Omer needed to have his leg amputated to remove the malignant bone tumor.
“In this case, we printed a mold (think cake pan) that corresponds exactly to the affected bone, filled it with surgical cement and voila – a precise ‘custom made’ femur, perfectly suited to the patient,” explained Orkin. “After rehab, this child will be able to stand on his feet, walk, and even run. He’ll have the gift of a childhood.”
By producing a flexible polymer replica of a patient’s heart, a surgical team can determine the precise location and angle for performing complex procedures such as a heart transplant, thereby making the procedure less challenging.At Sheba, this technique was used to help a 14-year-old girl with end-stage heart failure to finally receive the life-saving heart transplant she was waiting for.
“After spending two years in and out of the hospital, she is finally back home and leading a normal life,” said Orkin.
3D images don’t always require printing. Physicians can also view the images in a virtual reality (VR) software. They wear specialized goggles that allow manipulation of the images on screen. Augmented reality is integrated into these programs, providing computerized images with different levels of transparency, so physicians can “see” layers of the inner anatomy.
The potential of 3D printed bone and organ facsimiles is wondrous and overwhelming, helping doctors to prepare for surgeries, reducing time in the operating room and enhancing patient recovery and quality of life.