3D Printing in Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery is known for Two arms; reconstructive and aesthetic surgery. It is known for properly & meticulously planning and perfectly executing the plan to give the desired result. Plastic surgeons don’t like surprises. They plan surgery with paper, drawings, transparencies, wax models, clay models and what not. For craniofacial surgeries different views X-ray films, CT scan and 3D reconstruction with CT scan are the usual protocol.

Now the new technology 3D printing is coming to help for better planning and better surgical management in plastic surgery. 3D printing is vastly used for all industries and in all modalities of medicine all over the world.
It is of use in plastic surgery in many aspects like

  • Education of trainee
  • Teaching models
  • Planning of surgeries specially craniofacial and cosmetic surgeries, where we can cut out the patient’s anatomy and learn what it is before going for surgery. Great thing is its ability to create almost any shape and geometric feature. In such a world, patients would have total control over the exact shape and size of the implants they want.
  • Making implants to the size of defect and model them and bend plates & screw before the surgery. This saves a lot of time and intraoperative fallacies. This ultimately improves the post operative recovery & final result.
  • Pre operative planning for potential bone graft harvesting geometry and prefabrication is possible.
  • In patients with facial defects and deformities, creating models of bones, soft tissue and vasculature helps to eliminate surprises, minimizes complications and improves precision of surgery.
  • In cranial deformities it’s very helpful by creating the patients skull parts, then creating ideal skull which you like to make and then cutting and arranging bones and plan how to reconstruct.
  • Since the model is a facsimile of the patient’s actual physiology, surgeons can use it to shape metal inserts that fit precisely along a patient’s residual bone. The insert might be a plate that supports a damaged mandible or a titanium mesh for reconstructing a damaged eye socket. Without 3D physical models to work from, it would force surgeons to rely on time-consuming trial and error to shape the metal implants and risk potential tissue damage.

With 3D printed models surgeon open the patient up, slide in the device, check the fit, and start the patient’s recovery.

  • Ear reconstruction using 3D printing will change the complete management protocol for these patients and will give more pleasant and patient specific results.
  • Upper limb prosthesis, customized to patients needs and to his anatomy.
  • Breast implants, nose implants customized to patient for better aesthetic look.

Looking at the uses and simplicity of 3D printing, it will become a usual protocol in every plastic surgeons methodology. 15 years back I have never thought that I will be addicted to computers, internet and mobiles and use them as I am using, but good things never stops back, so the 3D printing in plastic surgery. Future will show us more uses of this technology in 3D bioprinting, making live tissue of customizable shapes and sizes. One may opt for Madonna’s chin, Nicole Kidman’s nose, Jennifer Lopez’s buttocks and what not. More monitoring and regularization of this technology will be necessary at that time.