Dr. James Harrop: The future of 3D printing and maximizing value in spine

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James Harrop, MD, is a professor of neurosurgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. 

Dr. Harrop provides his insight on 3D printing and how value can be maximized in spine.

Question: How do you see 3D printing developing in spine? 

Dr. James Harrop: There are multiple opportunities for this technology which will increase as we learn more about the process. For example, presently these are used for education, simulation and to help students understand complex 3D aspects of deformity surgery. Others have used them as templates for instrumentation insertion. The biomechanical materials are not strong enough for many applications but with time this will improve. For example, 3D printing is gaining increased use for cranial defects and spine use will grow.

Q: Do you have any theories as to how cost-effectiveness in spine can be improved?

JH: I think another way to approach this question is how do we improve and maximize the value of spine surgery. Since value equals quality/cost, you can either cut costs or improve quality to get increased value. We as spine surgeons need to better understand how to maximize our patient outcomes. There has been great work in this in terms of outcome measures and better defining patient populations but more needs to be done.

Q: What do you see as the next big trend in spine?

JH: I think spine surgery has trended to technology augmented instrumentation. There is much greater use of navigation and robotics and I believe this will continue. 

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