by John W. Mitchell
, Senior Correspondent | November 03, 2017
From the November 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
HCB News: What types of surgeons are utilizing 3-D printing the most?
There are so many different types of surgeons at Mayo operating in so many different fields that they are really driving our practice. They would come and say, ‘I want to take out a tumor from this place, but I want to do it through a little keyhole incision. Can you make me a model?’
From the very first model through today, 3-D printing has aided pre-surgical planning. When you have a 3-D model that has maybe the bone and the tumor and the blood vessels and you might have an orthopedic surgeon, a GI surgeon, a GYN surgeon, all those people can talk about the case using the model in real life and real size.
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Eventually, the spine surgeons saw the models. I do complex pediatric scoliosis and we started creating a lot of spines for more complex patients. When we started doing that they started realizing that not only is it good for the surgeon in preoperative planning, but they’re really helpful to patients because now the surgeon can use models as a vehicle to discuss what’s wrong with them or their child.
HCB News: What are the challenges in establishing a program like this?
These printers all have to be vented. They’re working with polymers so they all have to be vented to the outside. Hospital infrastructure is not really set up for these kinds of systems, so we worked with specialists to develop a manufacturing capability inside the hospital.
Now we’re into thousands of square feet for 3-D production. We don’t just do it for Rochester. We do it for the entire Mayo enterprise. We’ve started printing programs at both the Jacksonville [Fla.] and Scottsdale [Ariz.] satellite areas, but we’re the main site. Instead of 3-D printers popping up everywhere, we decided to centralize things and provide support for the other areas.
A shelf of various 3-D models from radiology group
By getting into the 3-D printing medical space early on we also designed the quality programs to ensure images that get transferred don’t get corrupted. When you go to the printer you need to be sure it does what it says it‘s going to do and prints things that are the correct size. By working with the Society of Manufacturing in Engineering and groups that use 3-D printing in other industries we’ve created all kinds of quality standards that ensure the printers are working the way they should.