3D printing technology could improve hospital patient care

The world’s only full colour, multi-material 3D printing technology is being used within France’s Bordeaux University Hospital (CHU) to improve kidney cancer surgery.

The printer named Stratasys J750 is used in complex kidney removal cases by the surgical team at the CHU’s urology and kidney transplantation department. The printer is able to 3D print life-like transparent and colour models of the patient’s anatomy in order to help improve the precision and success of kidney-sparing surgery, and thus improve patient outcomes.

Jean-Christophe Bernhard, urology professor at CHU said: “Having a 3D-printed model comprising the patient’s kidney tumour, main arteries and vessels, each in a different colour, provides an accurate picture of what we will see during operations.

“The ability to visualise the specific location of a tumour in relation to these other elements, all in three dimensions, greatly facilitates our surgical planning and is not easily achievable from a 2D scan.”

CHU has also recently created a collaborative research project titled Rein 3D Print, in order to determine whether boosting patient understanding of their surgical procedure could improve ambulatory care.

Bernhard adds: “Describing kidney tumour removal with a 2D scan or diagram will invariably leave most patients somewhat bewildered. Presenting them with a 3D printed model that clearly shows the tumour puts them at ease and enables the patient to grasp exactly what we’re going to do.

“Indeed, initial research from patient questionnaires shows that having 3D printed models increases their understanding of the surgery by up to 50%, so it’s a considerable benefit in terms of overall patient care.”

Carole Ridel, who recently underwent surgery at the CHU stated: “I was shown a 3D printed model of my kidney prior to my operation and instantly felt more reassured than I had been before surgeries I had undergone in the past.

“Seeing such a realistic representation allowed me to understand the process much better than an MRI scan. I noticed that the tumours were on the external wall of the kidney, rather than inside the organ itself, so I was comforted by realising the situation wasn’t as bad as I had imagined.”

The Stratasys J750 printer was enabled through funding from the European Union, the Regional Council of Nouvelle Aquitaine and the Bordeaux University Foundation, of which the CHU is a part.

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