Applications of Three-Dimensional Printing in Surgery

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Three-dimensional (3D) printing is a rapidly advancing technology in the field of surgery. This article reviews its contemporary applications in 3 aspects of surgery, namely, surgical planning, implants and prostheses, and education and training. Three-dimensional printing technology can contribute to surgical planning by depicting precise personalized anatomy and thus a potential improvement in surgical outcome. For implants and prosthesis, the technology might overcome the limitations of conventional methods such as visual discrepancy from the recipient’s body and unmatching anatomy. In addition, 3D printing technology could be integrated into medical school curriculum, supplementing the conventional cadaver-based education and training in anatomy and surgery. Future potential applications of 3D printing in surgery, mainly in the areas of skin, nerve, and vascular graft preparation as well as ear reconstruction, are also discussed. Numerous trials and studies are still ongoing. However, scientists and clinicians are still encountering some limitations of the technology including high cost, long processing time, unsatisfactory mechanical properties, and suboptimal accuracy. These limitations might potentially hamper the applications of this technology in daily clinical practice.

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