Surgeons often find it necessary to establish surgical plans, perform simulation operations and explain the surgical procedures to patients. However, mere CT and MRI data were not tangible enough. They want a detailed surgical site, which could show the locations of blood vessels with clarity. As the cradle for medical innovation, Asan Medical Center introduced 3D printers from Stratasys in 2013 to address these issues. The Department of Convergence Medicine, the Department of Radiology and the Department of Surgery have worked on a project to increase the accuracy of tumor surgery for kidney cancer and breast cancer. Recently, Asan Medical Center’s 3D printing technology has been selected as a “new medical technology” by the Ministry of Health and Welfare for the first time in Korea.
What Is Being Done
Surgeries for kidney cancer often involve the excision of the patient’s kidney, either complete or partial. It makes more sense to only remove the part of kidney that has been affected by the cancer cells, but the operation requires great precision. Important blood vessels must not be touched. 3D printing provides a great solution to this conundrum. With Connex3, doctors at Asan Medical Center can print organ models that are both soft and transparent. Because the materials are soft, the doctors can perform mock surgeries on the models. And because they are transparent, the insides, such as renal arteries and veins, the renal pelvis, tumor issues, etc., are easily visible to the naked eye. The 3D printed models have greatly contributed to the precision and speed of operations. Breast cancer surgeries can also benefit a lot from 3D printing technologies. Before the surgery, a microneedle typically needs be inserted into the breast under ultrasonography in order to mark the surgical site. This difficult procedure requires an expert surgeon and often brings pain to the patient. At Asan Medical Center, surgeons 3D print customized surgical guides based on the patient’s MRI data before each operation. Made with Stratasys’ FDM technology, these guides are sturdy and can mark the surgical sites accurately without bringing unnecessary pain to the patient. At the same time, surgeons can preserve the normal breast tissues to the largest extent and reduce the revision and relapse rates.