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Seeing inside the body with imaging tools, such as CT scans or MRIs, before performing an operation helps surgeons be more precise. And 3D printing adds another layer of preparation to the process.
Dr. Shanda Blackmon, a Mayo Clinic thoracic surgeon, explains how practicing on 3D models before surgery benefits patients.
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3D printing gives lung surgeons many benefits in the operating room.
"It helps us to communicate with patients in a way that helps them really understand what's happening," says Dr. Blackmon.
She says most patients don't know how to read a CT scan or X-ray.
"But when I show my patient a 3D print, they immediately understand what surgery we're planning on doing, how we're going to do it, and what approach we'll take," says Dr. Blackmon.
3D models of a patient's anatomy are particularly helpful when preparing for complex lung surgeries.
"If we have multiple teams in the operating room and we're doing a complex surgery, it helps us to plan who will do what part of the surgery and how will we do it," says Dr. Blackmon.
3D printing inspires surgeons to innovate.
"It helps us to think outside the box and to practice novel approaches without having to practice on the patient," says Dr. Blackmon.
Dr. Blackmon expects that eventually 3D models will be another tool in the toolbox to help surgeons improve their skills, be safer, and become more efficient and innovative.