By Shraddha Singh
Aug. 15, 2016
India is one of the fastest growing markets for the 3D printing industry. This technology is working wonders for diverse sectors such as automotive, fashion, aerospace, defence among others. Healthcare is the the latest sector immensely benefitting from the adoption of 3D printing.
Hospitals in India are finding various applications for this technology. Be it prosthetics or strategy to treat a complex heart disease, the three dimensional structures always come in handy. As 3D printing is becoming more popular in healthcare, there is a thriving industry catering to this sector.
3D printing or additive manufacturing has been around since 1984. However it gained traction across various sectors only in the last few years due to technological advances and affordability.
One way hospitals are using 3D printing is to get a 3D model of the body part of a patient so that surgeons can study the part they are operating upon before surgery. A CT/MRI scan of the patient is taken designing a 3D model right out of the patient's anatomy. A special software ensures the preservation of true patient anatomy in the final model without compromising on quality.
At Fortis Mumbai, cardiac surgeons use 3D printed replicas of the hearts of patients to strategize for complex procedures. Swati Garekar, a paediatric cardiologist at the hospital says, "When I give the surgeon the model and say here is the patient's heart, he is so happy. It is the actual size which he will see in the operation theatre, providing an opportunity to really understand the anatomy of the patient's heart before opening up the chest".
Each application utilises a different material. Mahesh Kappanayil, a doctor with Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) says, "There are different kinds of materials we can choose from. With some materials we can even cut open the 3D model like a real heart. Various other materials like plastic and sandstone are also available depending upon what we want to print out when."
Earlier, doctors, especially cardiologists, had a tough time understanding the complexities of heart and figuring out the best treatment possible. Kappanayil recalls, "Over the past few years, I used to study the MRI's, the CT scans and build models of heart by my hand using modelling clay, so that I could discuss with my team and understand the three dimensional heart structure."
However, the introduction of 3D printing in the field of cardiology has not only put an end to the crude way of understanding the anatomy of various hearts, but has also increased the comfort level of the surgeons in dealing with various complexities.