The use of 3D printing is gaining considerable success in many medical fields including surgery. Here, the technology was introduced for increasing the level of anatomical understanding thanks to the inherent characteristics of 3D printed models: these are highly accurate and customized reproductions, being obtained from own radiological imaging of patients, and are solid graspable objects allowing for free manipulation on part of the user. The resulting tactile feedbacks significantly help the comprehension of anatomical details, especially the spatial relations between structures. In this regard, they proved to be more effective than conventional 2D imaging and 3D virtual models. To date, an increasing number of applications have been successfully tested in many surgical disciplines, extending the range of possible uses to pre-operative planning, counselling with patients, education of students and residents, surgical training, intraoperative navigation and others; in recent years, 3D printing was also employed for creating surgical tools and reproducing anatomical parts to be used, respectively, as templates or guides for specific tasks of the surgery and individualized implantable materials in reconstructive procedures. Future expectations concern on one side the reduction of manufacturing costs and time to further increase the accessibility of 3D printing, while on the other the development of novel techniques and materials suitable for 3D printing of biological structures by which recreating the architecture and functionality of real human organs and tissues.
- 3D printing
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