2022/06/23

Realistic anatomical models to adapt surgical processes to each patient

Category: Plastics in healthcare

Thursday 7th April marks World Health Day, and this year, we can celebrate the day by saying that tailor-made medicine is now a reality. AIMPLAS is working on a new flexible 3D printed integrated services to plan surgeries with realistic anatomical models and make complex geometric orthoses. These anatomical models faithfully recreate the different properties and characteristics of organs, tissues, and pathologies. The technology also plans out multiple fully personalised hospital services that are adapted to each patient to reduce treatment side effects. All this is done using a rapid, multi-material printing system that uses different hardness polymers in a pellet shape to reduce costs, model manufacturing times and environmental impact.

AIMPLAS is working alongside the Research Foundation at the Hospital General de València (FIHGUV) and the company IT3D within the framework of the REALISTIC project as funded by the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI). The proposal that has been put forward consists of an advanced pilot unit that does not yet exist in any hospital in the Valencian Community which will facilitate a more precise, efficient, and safe surgical approach for the patient. In comparison to current 2D imaging tools such as CT or MRI, these models physically and realistically display the lesion or tumor, giving us a better understanding of its pathology and surgical approach.

Cheaper, less invasive, and error-prone procedures

3D printed medical models, also known as bio-models are incalculably valuable for clinical practice. They require materials that realistically feel like human tissues and recreate the properties of human tissues. Raquel Llorens-Chiralt, Principal Investigator of the project at AIMPLAS, says that this integrated and transversal approach is “a step towards an intelligent healthcare system that integrates multidisciplinary teams to give each patient a fast and personalised response. The technology helps to avoid errors in the operating theatre, reduces intervention and treatment times and facilitates less-invasive surgical processes with fewer associated side effects. It also reduces hospital costs.”

Likewise, for equipment manufacturers and the FDM (fused deposition modelling) 3D printing industry in general, the results of the project represent “a clear technical contribution. The results imply that a wide range of colours and materials with different mechanical properties can be used to make the best and most realistic 3D printed models. One of the most innovative parts of this research was the use of pellets to show that fused material extrusion systems mainly based on this format, are excellent solutions,” affirms Llorens.

This is based on the prototyping and 3D printing infrastructures available at the new Biomedical and Tissue Engineering Laboratory (BTELab) at the Hospital General de València, which has made numerous pioneering technological advances in the field, such as the creation of the first open-source heads for bioprinting in Spain. The case studies that the project´s printed models will produce will include different services, from surgical tumour treatments and neurosurgery to different types of surgery, such as orthopaedic and trauma, maxillofacial, vascular, plastic, dermatological, thoracic and digestive surgery, among others.

The funding

This project has been financed using EU funds from the ERDF as a part of the Valencian Community ERDF Operational Program 2014-2020 under the framework of the Aid Programme. This financing was announced on 14th January by the executive vice president of the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI) and the funds were given with aim of strengthening and developing the Valencian Innovation System to improve production models for the financial years 2021 to 2023.

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