By translating MRI, CT or ultrasound images into 3-D printed models, surgeons are now able to visualize tumors or other problems before they open up a patient. They're also using the technology to make patient-specific implants designed through radiological imaging, sometimes even using stem cells to build the devices.
This week, the role of 3-D printing in transforming the practice of radiology will be highlighted during the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago, which runs through Dec. 1.
The RSNA will debut its 3-D Printing Special Interest Group, a community of printing manufacturers and other advocates who will encourage radiologists to use 3-D models for diagnosis and educate professionals on how to best use the technology. The group will also develop quality standards for 3-D printing.
Radiologists play an important part in creating 3-D printed models and devices because of their expertise in capturing accurate diagnostic images and observing deviations in those images, said Bryan Crutchfield, vice president and general manager of North America for Materialise, a Belgian company that offers 3-D printing software and services, in addition to creating its own 3-D printed biomedical devices. Radiologists will continue to have a significant role in diagnostics, but 3-D printing will add another dimension.
“Radiologists will be the experts in using software and manipulating the software to best capture the anatomy of interest,” Crutchfield said. “That's exactly what they do today: look at images and interpret defects for physicians.”