Background: Three-dimensional printing is an additive manufacturing method that builds objects from digitally generated computational models. Core technologies behind three-dimensional printing are evolving rapidly with major advances in materials, resolution, and speed that enable greater realism and higher accuracy. These improvements have led to novel applications of these processes in the medical field. Methods: The process of going from a medical image data set (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound) to a physical three-dimensional print includes several steps that are described. Medical images originate from Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine files or data sets, the current standard for storing and transmitting medical images. Via Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine manipulation software packages, a segmentation process, and manual intervention by an expert user, three-dimensional digital and printed models can be constructed in great detail. Results: Cardiovascular medicine is one of the fastest growing applications for medical three-dimensional printing. The technology is more frequently being used for patient and clinician education, preprocedural planning, and medical device design and prototyping. We report on three case studies, describing how our three-dimensional printing has contributed to the care of cardiac patients at the University of Minnesota. Conclusion: Medical applications of computational three-dimensional modeling and printing are already extensive and growing rapidly and are routinely used for visualizing complex anatomies from patient imaging files to plan surgeries and create surgical simulators. Studies are needed to determine whether three-dimensional printed models are cost effective and can consistently improve clinical outcomes before they become part of routine clinical practice.
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Case Reports
- Journal Article
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't