The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recently published an article outlining key observations about 3D printing technology.
The authors examined how 3D printing is used today in orthopedics and potential benefits for the future. Here are five takeaways:
1. New 3D printing technology affects surgical plans and workflow. The technology is becoming more accessible as printers become smaller and less expensive.
2. Open-source 3D imaging software has made it feasible for widespread clinical implementation.
3. The article's authors believe that within the next 10 years, 3D printing will be able to improve outcomes for both simple and complex orthopedic cases. The technology will enhance the preoperative planning and allow surgeons to create patient-specific devices in a cost-effective way.
4. More recent applications for 3D printing have made their way to orthopedic biologic therapies.
5. The materials and printers used for 3D printing in orthopedics is expanding. "A clear understanding of this technology is important to the clinical implementation of 3D printing for current and future practice of orthopedic care," the authors conclude in the abstract.
But the authors are also cautious about implementing the technology.
"Whenever new technology is developed, we need to approach it in a thoughtful, researched, and careful manner," said Nathan Skelley, MD, medical director for orthopedic research at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D., and lead author of the article. "By doing so, we will develop a greater understanding of the potential for 3D printing technology and be better equipped to incorporate it appropriately into our practice and the clinical care of patients. In the future, I believe we'll start to see 3D printing focusing on regenerative medicine, joint preservation, and the ability to 3D print in biologic materials that have the potential to replace musculoskeletal tissues such as bone, cartilage, ligament, and tendon."