Surgeons think in a 3D or 4D world and also rely on tactile feedback, said presenter Zbigniew Starosolski, PhD, of Texas Children's Hospital.
"Radiologists, on the other hand, have a unique ability to visualize 3D and 4D from 2D data slices, a trait that is not common in other fields," he said. "So, in order to serve the surgical community better, we sought to present the data in a manner more useful to the surgeons."
The multidisciplinary research team set out to determine if 3D printing, which creates 3D physical models based on 3D images, could be used to facilitate preoperative assessment of subtalar coalitions. They found that the 3D model based on CT images could correctly quantify the degree of subtalar joint involvement, compared with 2D and 3D dataset review.
In addition to its promise as a treatment planning tool, 3D printing can greatly improve patient education, Starosolski said.
"Seeing a 3D model on a computer screen and holding the 3D printed object in hand is like two different experiences," he told AuntMinnie.com. "Patients get additional information because human brains are accustomed to process and understand the geometry of 3D objects with respect to known environment."