The field of medicine has been experiencing some amazing technological advancements over the past decade, which has spurned new developments in medical technology and other areas of health care. The devices that are being made with 3D printing usually come with complex features or geometry that match the unique anatomy of the patient in question. Because of how far 3D printing has advanced in recent years, it’s important to understand just how beneficial this form of printing can be to the field of medicine.
Medical Devices That Are 3D Printed
New medical devices are being manufactured from 3D printing with each passing day, which include three different categories of medical devices. These categories extend to:
- Implants like hip joints and cranial plates
- Instrumentation that assists with the surgical placement of a medical device
- External prosthesis, which can include hands or legs
This form of printing is also being used to research the manufacture of artificial organs on a large scale, which is still in the very early stages of development. To understand just how beneficial 3D printing can be for medicine, it’s important to look at the patient-matched devices that are being created with this type of printing. While 3D printers are most commonly used to make identical copies of a certain medical devices, they are also able to make devices that match with a patient.
These devices are based on the anatomy of a patient, which makes them much more difficult to craft. Before being manufactured on a large scale, these devices must first be approved by the FDA, which ensures that the device will be safe and effective. Devices that are matched to an individual patient can come in many different sizes and shapes. A common example of this type of device is a prosthetic hand that’s being made to match a specific individual.
Some additional types of medical devices that are being created with 3D printing include:
- Artificial tissues with actual blood vessels
- Heart valves
- Ear cartilage
- All kinds of different medical equipment like umbilical cord clamps
- Synthetic skin
Types of Transplants Used in Medicine
One very popular form of 3D printing is 3D bioprinting, which has allowed for the creation of whole organs. Currently, advancements are being made with 3D bioprinting that are making it possible to develop mineralized bones, corneal transplants, kidneys, and livers. You might also be surprised to learn that a 3D human heart can now be created with this technology.
The printing of artificial hearts is considered in the medical field to be the most promising advancement in this field. The heart doesn’t have any comprehensive biochemical reactions going on within it, which actually makes it one of the easier organs to effectively recreate. While the creation of artificial hearts via 3D printing is still being tested with animals, the results are already proving to be fantastic.
The process begins with the scanning of a patient’s heart to determine the exact shape and size that the artificial heart needs to be. Blood cells that are taken from the patient are then converted into stem cells before again being converted into heart cells. Since the cells from the patient are used in the process of making the artificial heart, it’s less likely that the body will reject the heart.
How 3D Printing Could Positively Impact the World of Medicine
The use of this type of printing can positively impact the world of medicine in many different and breathtaking ways. The ability to create actual organs with 3D bioprinting is going to be highly beneficial for patients who require an organ transplant but aren’t high up on the waiting list. Imagine a world where individuals no longer need to wait months or even years for an organ transplant. This is quickly becoming a reality with 3D printing.
However, the creation of standard medical devices with 3D printing is already positively impacting the world of medicine. For instance, custom-made prosthetics can be created very quickly and are much more inexpensive when compared to their traditional counterparts. There is no limit to how the world of medicine can benefit from 3D printing.
While 3D printing has already proven to be highly beneficial for medicine, the future is looking even brighter and could prove to be the key towards providing treatment for medical conditions that were once believed to be very difficult to treat.