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Technology Spotlight
September 2016

3-Dimensional Printed Anatomic Models as Planning Aids in Complex Oncology Surgery

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Radiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  • 2Department of Orthopedics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(9):1121-1122. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.2469

Oncology surgeons make decisions about surgical planning based on their visualization of tumor anatomy and its relationship to adjacent critical structures. These difficult decisions are aided by individualized life-sized, physical anatomic models created with data from the patient’s computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance images (MRI) using the emerging technology of 3-dimensional (3-D) printing.

3-D printing of anatomic models arose from technology developed in the 1980s. 3-D printers work by laying down successive layers of ultrathin material according to a computer-aided design (CAD) software program to create a 3-dimensional object. 3-D printers vary in the materials used (liquids, filaments, and powders) that are hardened by lasers, UV light, heat, or adhesives.1 In the 1990s, high-resolution CT allowed for the creation of anatomic models using imaging studies. Initially, craniofacial models were created; congenital heart and orthopedic models came soon after. 3-D models for soft-tissue malignant abnormalities including lung, liver, renal, and head and neck cancer are now being developed. At our institution surgical interest and demand is a significant driver for the creation of models.

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