3D-Printed Backbones Are Used to Train Surgeons

Researchers from Nottingham Trent University have developed a method to 3D print a realistic model of a human backbone. This spine is used to help surgeons train for difficult operations.

3D-Printed Backbones Are Used to Train Surgeons

When it comes to medical procedures, patients fear nothing like surgery outcomes. Although surgeons need to go through extensive education and are extremely well-trained, the risk is always in the back of the mind prior to entering the OR.

Spinal Surgery is one of the most difficult procedures for doctors because they can’t really practice while they are in education. Until now that is because researchers at Nottingham Trent University have been 3D printing exact replica models of the human spine in order to have surgeon prospects train their skills before they operate on an actual human.

The Printed Model Feels and Behaves Like a Real Bone

The model backbone’s bone structure is built using PLA and a binding agent. After finishing the post process, a polyester varnish is applied to the 3D-printed spine before silicon-based spinal disks are implemented. In the last step, the artificial bones are filled up with a soft polyurethane to keep it all in place.

Professor Bronek Boszczyk of NTU said:

“This is an innovative project which has resulted in the development of spinal models which look, feel and behave like real bone. These models will enable surgeons to practice very delicate procedures in a training environment which will give clinicians increased confidence before they undertake real spinal operations.”

3D Printing Allows for Customized Models

Since most human backbones look about the same, a model can be used to simulate the majority of difficult procedures like trapped nerve relief, removal of bone tissue or a laminectomy. In even more difficult circumstances in which the patient’s spine is somewhat distorted or deformed, technology allows using CT scan results in order to create a 3D backbone model bespoke to the individual patient’s situation. The spine model can then be 3D-printed for the operation process to be trained beforehand.

Although NTU researchers have already come a long way, they will still have to figure out some things before 3D-printed backbones can be used efficiently to train surgeons. The next step in that process is creating bones with varying strength to emulate a realistic backbone even more closely.

Whenever printing is used to do good, we’re all for it. Especially when it comes to helping saving lives. This is another instance in which 3D-printing is furthering medical, hence humanitarian advancement.

Have you heard of other examples where 3D printing has been used to train for procedures? Tell us in the comments!