"Radiologists play a central role in this growing field and in close collaboration with referring clinicians, they can make 3D models a widely available reality in patient-focused medicine," noted Nuno Pereira da Silva and colleagues from the medical imaging department at Coimbra University Hospital.
Growing scientific evidence supports the benefits of 3D models in clinical practice. They can reduce surgical and anesthetic time and lead to a decrease in the number and severity of complications, shorter hospitalization time (and lower associated costs), and improvement in surgical precision due to better preoperative planning, resulting in better outcomes, the researchers explained in a digital poster.
The technology can also result in technical improvements through the possibility of simulation with appropriate models and in improved communication between healthcare professionals and patients.
3D models are increasingly used to help surgeons, guiding them through the complex hepatic vasculobiliary anatomy. They can help in the resection of hepatic primary tumors and metastasis because they can demonstrate the location within hepatic segments and the relationship with adjacent structures such as hepatic and portal veins, arteries, and bile ducts.
3D models are useful in surgical planning, and optimal resection planes can be selected prior to surgery. In patients at risk of post-hepatectomy liver failure, liver volumes may be calculated for various possible resection approaches.
The following five 3D printers are particularly suitable for liver applications:
The development and availability of new virtual reality (VR) technologies in the near future may limit the need for printed models, the authors cautioned.
"Virtual surgical planning is a growing field, and virtual preoperative simulation may solve some ethical issues associated with medical education, as it is a learning tool for training procedures without potential harm to patients," they pointed out. "VR is also eco-sustainable and requires no use of plastics."