3D Printed Liver Models to Make Surgeries Safer


3D printing is making complicated surgeries safer.

A new method of 3D printing is aiding surgeons in complicated liver surgeries. This method involves creating an accurate replica of a patient’s liver, which is then 3D printed in clear materials, complete with colored arteries and veins, allowing surgeons to see potential complications before performing surgery.

While scans such as CT scans and MRIs are helpful, they are 2D –  which doesn’t always allow surgeons to see the whole picture. When it comes to the liver, there are three main blood vessels and the locations vary depending on the person. Surgeons often go into surgery without knowing exactly where these vessels are. Accidentally cutting into one of these vessels, according to Dr. Nizar Zein, the chief of hepatology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, can have disastrous results.

The artificial livers allow doctors to see exactly where these vessels are located before surgery, providing them with a better understanding of what will be involved. Using the 3D printed transparent model, the blood vessels are dyed a certain color, making their location visible to surgeons.

The 3D printed livers have already aided in at least 30 surgeries, and have even changed the course of surgery in many of those cases, helping to prevent complications.

The 3D printed liver is the just the beginning, and Zein says that researchers are now looking to develop similar methods to aid in other complicated surgeries as well, such as hand and face transplants, and the removal of pancreatic tumors.