Mayo Clinic research examines 3D printed spine models

Alan Condon -  

A group of Mayo Clinic researchers in Jacksonville, Fla., examined the key trends in spine 3D printing of model spines for simulation training, and are now sharing their findings.

The researchers created a vertebral simulator using multiple material printing to generate a spine model that best simulates the interoperative in vivotactile feedback of the cortico-cancellous interface, which has significant implications for the spinal instrumentation industry and resident training.

Four key insights from the study:

1. Medical simulation is invaluable for resident training, but cadavers are still considered the "gold-standard" for training with simulators, despite the high cost, regulation and maintenance. However, 3D printing could change that.

2. The researchers created three lumbar vertebrae and 20 C2 vertebrae models using a 3D printer with PLA filament and PVA to mimic the feeling of penetrating cortical bone into cancellous bone during spinal instrumentation.

3. There were no failures in hardware or materials among the 3D printed models, and the PLA/PVA models were proven superior over the single material models.

4. Previous 3D-printed materials for fabricating vertebral bony anatomy for biomechanical testing and instrumentation had a wide range of results. Previous models have been limited to one material print and could only incorporate two types of bone strength properties individually, while the new model can incorporate them collectively.

5. The PLA/PVA method was found promising for use in both educational and biomechanical simulators.

Editor's note: This article was updated May 1 at 2:40 p.m.

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