Hottest Christmas Gift from RSNA 2013: Radiology and 3D-Printing

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1459108_10102899088320586_1670725878_nThe Monday afternoon session at RSNA (Radiological Society of North America)  (#RSNA13) on 3D printing (a.k.a. additive manufacturing) and its application in medicine is one of a few sessions that can get your blood pumping again. The refreshing and exciting presentation demonstrated some early examples of 3D-printing in medicine including pre-surgical planning. Some of the beautiful 3D models from patients are shown here. The potential of 3D printing is only limited to imagination in all industries.

1455163_10102899117407296_2106946781_nBecause of the proximity of radiology to high resolution medical images and 3D visualization, it is not hard to postulate that 3D printing can very well be a significant part of radiology in the near future.

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However, two important questions must be answered soon:

1. What are we going to print?

The current clinical applications are limited to surgical planning and prothesis manufacturing, especially in cardio-thoracic and orthopedic surgeries.  Some have proposed potential application in research such as hemodynamics simulation. However, overall, there are still many limitations due to material and resolution. 1461116_10102899166219476_1410680517_n 1461231_10102899166144626_803057031_n

2. What is the cost/benefit ratio?

Needless to say, there is no CPT coding for 3D-printing related activities since its superiority in its clinical use over other alternatives have not been clearly demonstrated. As sexy as 3D-printing (or additive manufacturing) sounds, the process of making a simple human skull takes as many as 30 hours using typical mid level printer, not accounting for the cost of human resource, space, and equipments.

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That said, I am double downing on 3D-printing in radiology.

Having the advantage of living next to the headquarter of TechShop, I am getting ready to make my first brain soon.

hchen23

Neuroradiologist by trade, enthusiast for big data, digital marketing, 3D printing in healthcare

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