Mayo Clinic shares clinical benefits of 3-D printing in radiology at RSNA

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | November 28, 2016
Health IT RSNA
Dr. Jonathan Morris' presentation
at RSNA 16
It was a packed house of RSNA attendees on Sunday, listening as Dr. Jonathan Morris of Mayo Clinic spoke about the potential 3-D printing has for revolutionizing radiology.

"The surgeons want more things — they want models that feel like tissue and arteries and veins," he said.

At first, the most obvious use for the 3-D printer at Mayo Clinic was for spine applications like scoliosis. An intraoperative O-arm is conventionally used to determine the placement of screws during surgical thoracic junction procedures, but it fails about 30 percent of the time, according to Morris.

"There are complex patients who come in that don't have great landmarks, and when you open them up it would be nice to know where these screws should go before," he added.

Thoracic surgeons eventually took notice of the technology and requested 3-D models of the trachea, tumor, subclavia and subclavian vessels. The surgeon can't see any of that anatomy during the procedure, said Morris — nor would they want to, he added, because once they see the tumor that means they're inside of it, indicating potentially spilled tumor cells.

From there, almost every surgical specialty at Mayo Clinic was asking for a printed model of anatomy. One of the surgeons didn't need a CT scanner to plan surgery, but he found the 3-D model to be helpful in taking everything he knows and connecting the dots.

"There are some things he can't know until he gets into the operating room and the 3-D model makes those things known ahead of time," said Morris.

Another factor that's attracting surgeons to these models is the significant cost savings they can offer. An external pelvectomy procedure can cost $275,000, but a $700 3-D model can help to decrease operating room time and improve outcomes, according to Morris.

At Mayo Clinic, the operating room costs between $100 and $200 per minute, so saving an hour can dramatically reduce costs. In fact, the chairman of neurology uses a 3-D model to help him decrease perfusion times.

"It's telling him before he gets in there what artery just goes to the tumor but doesn't go to the kidney," said Morris. "That way he can decrease the total perfusion time and increase the post-op kidney function."

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