Surgeons at Tulane University School of Medicine have published the first every study using 3D printers to construct 3D models directly from the patient's diagnostic imaging and individualized to each patient to aid in organ sparing da Vinci robotic surgery. The models can be constructed in hours and put the patient's kidney in the surgeons hand before even nicking the skin. These models can be used as teaching tools to direct the patient to the appropriate surgery, or the trainee on how to perform the surgery before entering the operating room. Most importantly they have the potential to improve patient outcomes by creating a tactile model for the surgeon to manipulate while performing robotic surgery where the tactile sensation is removed from the surgeon's armamentarium. The manuscript has been published online in the prestigious peer reviewed journal Urology.
Not complacent with their recent success the authors are working on models that more closely approximate the patient's natural tissue so that the surgeon may "practice" on an exact replica of their patient's moments before performing the actual procedure. They are also in the process of publishing studies that further explore the benefit of this novel technology. Finally they are expanding beyond kidney cancer and exploring liver, lung and prostate cancer.
Study: Physical Models of Renal Malignancies Using Standard Cross-sectional Imaging and 3-Dimensional Printers: A Pilot Study, Jonathan L. Silberstein, Michael M. Maddox, Phillip Dorsey, Allison Feibus, Raju Thomas, Benjamin R. Lee, Urology, DOI: 10.1016/j.urology.2014.03.042, published online 21 June 2014.