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Dr. Jonathan M. Morris speaking
during the panel discussion

Mayo Clinic radiologist discusses benefits and challenges of 3D printing at GE event

by Lauren Dubinsky , Senior Reporter
“We’re all salary at the Mayo Clinic, so no doctor gets paid any more for doing something extra. Our surgeons would have been very quick to tell us [3D printing] is not helpful, but they kept coming back and saying it is very helpful in a meaningful way,” Dr. Jonathan M. Morris of Mayo Clinic, said at GE’s Industry in 3D event in New York on Thursday.

He spoke as part of a panel discussion titled, “Transforming patient care from top to bottom,” about the benefits and challenges of 3D printing in the clinical setting.

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Mayo Clinic started its in-house 3D printing lab in 2002 with the hope of helping its surgeons understand anatomy in ways that weren’t possible before. The lab uses CT and MR images to create life-size 3D models of patient anatomy for preoperative simulation.

“The surgeons constantly come back to us and ask for more models because it takes them to a place of increased confidence and a place where they know more before they enter the operating room,” said Morris.

He added that this was made possible at Mayo Clinic because different disciplines are allowed to collaborate and there are no barriers between them. The disciplines at other health systems usually don’t work together because they are held to different standards and have different reward systems.

But as a neuroradiologist, Morris doesn’t know what the needs of a thoracic surgeon are so it’s imperative that they work together in the 3D printing lab.

The 3D models have helped Mayo Clinic reduce operating time, mortality rates, ICU length of stay and overall hospital length of stay, but all of that innovation is not without its challenges. Morris’ team is currently struggling with the segmentation side of 3D printing.

Specific anatomy data needs to be segmented from the CT or MR scan to create the 3D models. There is software that does that, but it’s designed for engineers and isn’t able to meet all of the needs of the surgeons.

“We worked with the radiology side and now we have to work with the segmentation side on things like machine learning to create gold standard data so that we don’t have any hands-on segmentation,” said Morris.

When asked what it will take for 3D printing to go mainstream among health systems, Morris replied that a turnkey solution that covers the radiology protocol, segmentation and printing is needed. He added that printers that print in full color and materials that feel like real organs are also necessary.

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