In the last decade, 3D printing has gathered momentum in orthopedics, but its use in spine surgery has been complicated by the challenges reproducing full spine models that require specialized and expensive equipment. Spine surgeons may also be unaware of how 3D printing could apply to their procedures, according to an article published in the September issue of Journal of Spine Surgery.
Five key insights on 3D printing in spine surgery, according to the authors:
1. 3D printing in spine surgery can be divided into three groups: models for preoperative planning or teaching, templates for procedural accuracy, and custom tools or implants.
2. Posterior spinal fusion for scoliosis is one of the most commonly used applications of 3D-printed intraoperative devices in spine surgery.
3. 3D-printed implants, which are customized to fit each patient to facilitate pedicle screw placement, are rising in popularity because of the technology's potential to reduce complications and improve accuracy of screw placement.
4. Current pedicle screw placement methods include freehand, the use of a navigation system and robotic assistance. Research compares the efficacy, accuracy and safety of 3D-printed implants to the freehand technique because of the significantly higher technical and cost investments required for robotic and navigation techniques. However, researchers argue the effect of 3D implants on intraoperative blood loss, complication rates and surgical efficacy is not clear, and more long-term data is needed.
5. The use of 3D-printed implants in adults could differ substantially from pediatric patients, so the adult literature cannot be applied writ large to pediatric populations, according to researchers.
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