Value of 3D printing for the comprehension of surgical anatomy

Stefania Marconi, Luigi Pugliese, Marta Botti, Andrea Peri, Emma Cavazzi, Saverio Latteri, Ferdinando Auricchio, Andrea Pietrabissa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In a preliminary experience, we claimed the potential value of 3D printing technology for pre-operative counseling and surgical planning. However, no objective analysis has ever assessed its additional benefit in transferring anatomical information from radiology to final users. We decided to validate the pre-operative use of 3D-printed anatomical models in patients with solid organs’ diseases as a new tool to deliver morphological information. Methods: Fifteen patients scheduled for laparoscopic splenectomy, nephrectomy, or pancreatectomy were selected and, for each, a full-size 3D virtual anatomical object was reconstructed from a contrast-enhanced MDCT (Multiple Detector Computed Tomography) and then prototyped using a 3D printer. After having carefully evaluated—in a random sequence—conventional contrast MDCT scans, virtual 3D reconstructions on a flat monitor, and 3D-printed models of the same anatomy for each selected case, thirty subjects with different expertise in radiological imaging (10 medical students, 10 surgeons and 10 radiologists) were administered a multiple-item questionnaire. Crucial issues for the anatomical understanding and the pre-operative planning of the scheduled procedure were addressed. Results: The visual and tactile inspection of 3D models allowed the best anatomical understanding, with faster and clearer comprehension of the surgical anatomy. As expected, less experienced medical students perceived the highest benefit (53.9% ± 4.14 of correct answers with 3D-printed models, compared to 53.4 % ± 4.6 with virtual models and 45.5% ± 4.6 with MDCT), followed by surgeons and radiologists. The average time spent by participants in 3D model assessing was shorter (60.67 ± 25.5 s) than the one of the corresponding virtual 3D reconstruction (70.8 ± 28.18 s) or conventional MDCT scan (127.04 ± 35.91 s). Conclusions: 3D-printed models help to transfer complex anatomical information to clinicians, resulting useful in the pre-operative planning, for intra-operative navigation and for surgical training purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4102-4110
Number of pages9
JournalSurgical Endoscopy and Other Interventional Techniques
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2017


  • 3D
  • Anatomy
  • Model
  • Printing
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Value of 3D printing for the comprehension of surgical anatomy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this