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April 2015

Surgical Applications of 3-Dimensional Printing and Precision Medicine

Author Affiliations
  • 1Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • 2The Blackstone Group, London, England
  • 3Boeing Network and Space Systems, Titusville, Florida
  • 4Division of Plastic Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;141(4):305-306. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2015.44

Three-dimensional (3-D) printing, which involves the construction of physical objects from digital models, may revolutionize surgical care. By using computer-aided design based on computed tomographic images or laser surface scans, clinicians can more precisely tailor therapeutics, implants, and potentially soft tissue and organs for the specific anatomy of each patient. For example, in 2013, researchers reported the successful printing and implantation of a customized, bioresorbable tracheal splint for the treatment of an infant with tracheobronchomalacia.1 However, there is currently limited systematic clinical evidence on the relationship between patient outcomes and devices manufactured through 3-D printing. With the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expected to issue guidance on 3-D printing in the coming year, we believe it is an opportune time to examine key issues relating to the clinical use, regulation, and reimbursement of this novel technology.

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